Monday, January 14, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary.

The man regarded by some as “the most famous New Zealander in history”, Sir Edmund Hillary, died on January 11th at the ripe old age of 88. In case you can’t remember back that far, on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were the first people to climb Mt Everest and return alive to tell the world. (For a while no one even knew who was really the first to reach the summit as the two of them made a pact to say they reached it together.) People today still climb Mt Everest, because in the words of George Mallory an earlier climber, (who died trying to conquer it), “Because it is there”.

Many have climbed it successfully since. Some 1,700, I believe, but some still die trying each year. Much money and effort and even lives are spent on trying to climb it again, but to what advantage, other than to say that you have done it? (Which I have to admit is something most of us will never do.)

However Sir Hillary (Or Sir Ed as he was afffectionaly known by his friends,) was different. Not only was he the first to climb it, but also he seems to be one of few, who really cared about the mountain or the people there. Not only did he climb it 1st but later he went back and did charity work in Nepal, including cleaning up some of the mess left by later climbers. He also set up a trust called the Himalayan Trust that established many schools and clinics in the remote Solu Khumba district of Nepal and which also helped establish the region’s two main airstrips.

Sir Edmund was not only the first to climb Mt Everest but one of the few (along with his son Peter, who also climbed Everest many years later,) to do something constructive with his fame and achievements, for the others involved in that endeavour. He never forgot all the Sherpas and local people that helped make his climb possible. And in the 50 plus years since, he had worked tirelessly and largely unannounced, to help them in practical life changing ways. So much so that the people there, think of him as their second father still!

What about us? We may never climb Mt Everest. (Well I won’t that’s for sure!) But there are many other things that we can do, and when we have achieved them, what then? We can either keep all the glory and all the gold, for ourselves? Or we can be like Sir Edmund, who grateful for the help he had received in achieving what he had, not only reluctantly accepted that he was the first but also shared his glory and Gold with others in practical ways.

In what practical ways can you help those around you that have helped you over the years? No matter how many years ago!

New Zealand’s Prime minister said this,” He was a heroic figure who not only knocked off Everest but lived a life of determination, humility and generosity.” We may never “knock off” Everest or any other mountain for that matter, but let people say of you, that you too “ lived a life of determination, humility and generosity”. Life is more than one single achievement, no matter how big; so like Sir Ed, let yourself be remembered more for your whole life, than for just one single achievement. What say you?

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