Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Verso L'Alto!

It's a mainstay of almost every conference or meeting I attend, at which a minor celebrity or inspirational motivationalist (my word) is needed to fill the bill.  Someone's climbed Mount Everest and we have to sit and take life lessons out of it.  If I sound cynical, it's because I am.  I have no doubt that climbing the Mount is hard, so too is running a marathon.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who have disciplined themselves to do it the once.  Frankly, I'm more interested to know what they've done with their lives since and besides before they start telling me how their singular endeavour should inspire me to change my life.

I have far more respect for the avid mountain climber than I do for the hobby-climber who, on their first foray, challenges the world's tallest peak.

I like the concept, though.  Reach for the top.  Go towards the peak.  Toward the heights!  We should all aspire to better.  Verso l'alto.

Pier Giorgio Frassati was an avid climber.  He was a young, athletic man, handsome and devout.  He died at the age of 24 reportedly from a disease contracted while serving Italy's poorest of the poor.  He has been described as a man of the beatitudes.

Perhaps you know the beatitudes, also called the sermon on the mount.  You can find them in Matthew 5:3-12 and in Luke 6:20-22.  "Blessed are the poor.." and so on.

Pier Giorgio had a special place in his heart for the poor from a young age, when at four years old he is reported to have spontaneously given his shoes to a pauper child in need.  He was a devout follower of Christ all his life, without the support of his family.

At his funeral after a brief illness and sudden death from poliomyelitis, thousands of the poor whom he had helped lined the streets to mourn his passing, surprising his parents who knew nothing of the extent of his preferential option for the poor.

There's so much more to his story than what I've written.  What impresses me, and the reason I wear a wrist band with the words "VERSO L'ALTO" is that this man reached toward the heights physically by climbing mountains, and reached greater heights in life by stooping to help the lowly, quietly and with nary a speaking gig to show for it.

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