Monday, April 29, 2013
Sunday, March 31, 2013
|Erik Weihenmayer with my kids in 2009|
What’s within you is stronger than what is in your way. – Erik Weihenmayer
ERIK’S GIFT: Reach!
By Cheryl A. Cutting
“Reach!” Erik called down to Alia
“But I’m afraid,” she called back.
“Maybe you’re afraid for the wrong reason,” he hollered patiently, and smiled down at
her. “You’ll never know what you can touch unless you reach!”
Alia took a deep breath, mustered all of her courage and reached out towards Erik; when
their hands met he pulled her the rest of the way up onto the wide ledge.
Most of the other mountaineers in their group kept climbing, but Erik and his friend Jeff
sat down with Alia and waited while she caught her breath.
The view from this far up the mountain was spectacular but Alia couldn’t appreciate the
beauty because she was too busy talking about how difficult and scary it was to get there.
Erik sat quietly listening to her for a while before he finally spoke.
“Whether you are climbing this mountain, or climbing the mountain of your life, you
still have to reach out and take risks to get to the summit.
The good news is the view from the peak will be even more spectacular because you
were willing to challenge yourself to get there.”
“But what if I fall?” She asked seriously.
“We all fall sometimes,” was Erik’s reply. “But if we learn something each time we fall
we can use the lessons to help us the next time we reach out. Even more importantly
though is to surround ourselves with good people. If we do, they will be there to help us
when we stumble; just like you, Jeff and I are roped together on this climb to help keep
each other safe. Then if we fall we won’t fall as far.”
Alia sat quietly thinking about Erik’s words for a long time. It occurred to her she was
climbing a mountain and a blind man who had climbed all of the tallest mountains in the
whole-wide-world was helping her to do it, so he probably knows what he’s talking
“How old were you when you lost your sight?” Alia asked, hoping the question wasn’t
“Thirteen,” replied Erik.
“THIRTEEN years old?!” Alia exclaimed. “That’s just a little bit older than I am now!
But you still climb mountains, kayak big rivers, go paragliding, skiing and travel on
adventures all over the world!”
“Alia,” Erik answered patiently, “I lost my sight, but not my vision of what I want to
do with my life.”
She thought about this as she tossed pebbles off the ledge and watched them tumble
towards the valley below, then she told him:
“My friend, Bucky, taught me about finding my vision and how important it is.”
“He’s right,” Erik said. “If you have a clear vision it’s easier to make brave choices to
reach where you want to go.”
“How did you find your vision?” Alia asked.
“Well, losing my sight actually helped me find it,” said Erik with a smile.
“You’re kidding, right?” She liked how she could talk with him in the same easy way
she talked to her big brother.
“No, really,” he replied. “We each have a choice to let adversity stop us or motivate us;
I decided to let my challenges motivate me.”
“What do you mean?” Alia asked looking puzzled.
“As we climb the mountain of life there will be tough times along the way,” Erik
told her. “We don’t get a choice about having difficult times but we do get to choose
whether our challenges will make us give up our vision or if we’ll find a way to use them
to help us move forward.”
“But I’m just a kid,” Alia replied. “It’s harder when you’re a kid.”
“Well, if you think you won’t make it to the top of the mountain then you probably
won’t,” Erik replied. “The good news is you have another option; you can look for
possibilities instead, and when you do you’ll usually find them.
“How do you do it?” Alia wanted to know.
“If you focus with your eyes on how difficult something is then all you’ll see is
obstacles,” he said. “But if you look from your heart for what might be possible in spite
of the challenges then everything changes.”
She stood and turned to look up the mountain at the steep climb still ahead of them. It
looked difficult and scary but she was beginning to understand what Erik was talking
“So, if I look with my eyes I’ll only see what is in front of me, but if I look with
my heart I’ll see what might be possible?” Alia asked.
“Exactly,” he said. “This strategy won’t guarantee you’ll always get it right the first
time, but if you change the way you think about adversity you’ll have fewer challenges
and a better chance of success.
“Bucky taught me challenges can be good teachers,” said Alia. “He also said if my
vision is clear my journey will be easier, but why do you think this is?” she asked Erik.
“Because if your vision is clear you can see what you’re reaching for,” he replied.
“So what now? Where do I go from here?” she asked her friend.
“Just keep climbing, Alia. Find your vision and reach for it!” Erik told her.
“But how do I know what to reach for?” asked Alia.
This was Erik’s reply:
”Reach inside yourself for the strength you’ll need to climb.
Reach over obstacles as they arise.
Reach up to what is possible even when it seems impossible.
Reach out to the those around you for support on your expedition because your best
chance for success is to team up with other good people along the way. If you are willing
to do all of this then you’ll reach your way up to an extraordinary life.”
“Wow, Erik!” said Alia. “Do you really think I can do all of that?”
“I’m certain you can,” he assured her.
“Well it helps to know I don’t have climb alone.” she said thoughtfully.
“You are definitely not alone,” he replied with a big smile.
With these final words, she reached out her hand to him, and they continued their climb
up the mountain with Erik’s friend, Jeff guiding them both. Roped up and working
together they all reached the summit in the bright of the noonday sun.
As Alia stood looking out at the vastness before her she realized Erik was right – the
view was more spectacular from the peak of the mountain and it was worth the
challenges it took to get here.
© Cheryl Cutting 2012
This is a fictional story about a real gift of wisdom I received from my friend,
Erik Weihenmayer. I hope you enjoyed reading this gift as much as I enjoyed sharing it
with you. Remember Erik’s advice: reach out every chance you get, stay open and learn
to look with your heart so you can truly see all the wonderful possibilities awaiting you
on your journey.
Erik was not born blind; he was born with a condition which had him gradually lose his
eye sight. Erik decided early on he would not let blindness stop him from living a
fulfilling life. Despite losing his sight at age 13, Erik has become an accomplished
mountaineer, adventurer and humanitarian.
On May 25, 2001 Erik became the only blind man in history to reach the summit of the
world’s highest peak—Mount Everest. In August of 2008, he completed his quest to
climb all of the Seven Summits – the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents,
joining only 150 mountaineers who have ever accomplished this feat.
In addition to being a world-class athlete, Erik is also a best-selling author and public
speaker. Erik is an ordinary man with an extraordinary vision of what is possible if we
reach for our dreams. Erik’s accomplishments demonstrate how one does not need to
have perfect eyesight to have the vision necessary to achieve great things.
To learn more about Erik you can visit his website: www.touchthetop.com
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Not all stars belong to the sky! - Unknown
JEFF’S GIFT: Throwing Stars
By Cheryl A. Cutting
“Being of service doesn’t have to mean doing something big,” said Jeff.
“But with so much need in the world – how can we possibly make a difference if we
don’t do something big?” Alia wanted to know.
“That’s a great question and it reminds me of a story,” he replied.
As they sat on the beach scrunching their toes in the warm sand, Jeff shared this story:
Early one morning a man was walking along the beach. The sun was shining and it
was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a girl going back and forth
between the beach and the surf’s edge. Back and forth she went again and again.
As the man approached he could see there were hundreds of starfish stranded on
the sand as a result of a storm the night before, and the girl was tossing them one by
one back into the surf.
“Young lady,” he asked, “why are you throwing starfish into the sea?”
“The sun is up, the tide is going out, and if I don’t throw them back they will die,”
“But don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and stranded starfish all
along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.” He replied.
The girl listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish
and gently threw it back into the ocean. She then turned back to the man and said
with a smile, “I sure made a difference for that one!”
“Did the girl in the story make a difference for each starfish she threw back into the sea?”
“Absolutely!” replied Alia.
“Do you think any of those starfish are ever going to come back and thank her for saving
their lives? Or maybe they’ll send her a nice note in the mail expressing their
appreciation?” Jeff teased with a gleam in his eye.
Alia laughed at the silly thought of getting a card in the mail from a starfish. “No, I’m
pretty sure they won’t,” she said with a smile.
“So, if we don’t serve others for the gratitude and we don’t do it for the glory, then why
do it?” He asked her.
Letting sand sift through her fingers, Alia thought about the question. “Because we can
and because it’s a good thing to help people,” she replied.
“That’s certainly part of the answer, but there’s a difference between helping and
serving,” said Jeff. “If I help you then in some way I see you as less able than I am. But if
I serve you then we’re equals who simply have different abilities and resources.”
Alia was confused and it showed in the look on her face.
Jeff thought for a moment then picked up a piece of driftwood and drew two candles in
“There’s an old saying which says:
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle
“If we’re both in the dark and both have candles but my candle has a flame and yours
doesn’t, then I can serve you by lighting your candle, right?” asked Jeff.
“Right,” Alia replied hesitantly.
“However it doesn’t mean you’re any less than me just because you don’t have a
candle with a flame. And if I light your candle then what is my reward?”
Alia jumped up smiling and said, “I know! More light!”
“Exactly! Good job!” Jeff cheered.
“So by serving others we can light up the world and also leave our mark in some way,
right?” Alia asked. She liked the idea of making a difference even though she was still
just a kid.
Jeff got up, wiped sand from his shorts and walked a little ways leaving footprints on the
beach behind him. When he turned around he said,
“Yes, Alia, being of service is like leaving footprints in the sand. Our footprints are the
result of our actions but quickly fade away, however as we make our imprints we also
carry some of the sand away with us, right?”
“Right,” she replied.
“So if we spend time lighting candles and throwing starfish back into the sea then even
such small gestures can make our ‘footprints’ meaningful and we get to carry some of
the good away with us too,” he continued.
“I sort of understand what you mean,” she told him.
“The footprints the girl made while tossing starfish into the sea faded as the waves
washed up on shore, erasing any sign she had ever been there. But the difference she
made in the lives of those starfish is what remains. Isn’t that cool?” Jeff asked as he lay
back down on the sand and closed his eyes.
“Yes, it’s very cool, but what do I have to give?” Alia asked. “I’m just a kid.”
While she waited for Jeff’s reply Alia twirled back and forth making swishy footprints in
the damp sand. When she stopped to inspect her impressions the sun went behind a dark
cloud; this made her shiver just a bit as the chilly sea water lapped at her feet and began
to erase her footprints.
With his eyes still closed Jeff finally answered: “The girl in the story was just a kid too
yet she made a difference by the tiny act of tossing starfish back into the sea. Maybe she
gave us the secret: if we walk through life throwing stars - if we just do little good deeds
here and there along the way - this can add up to making a big difference one small step
at a time.
“I like her idea! I want to be a star-thrower too!” Alia announced as she plopped herself
back down on the sand. “
“Ok, with your star-thrower goal in mind the next question is who do you want to travel
with?” Jeff asked as he sat back up to look at her. “Good travel companions make all the
difference, and our truest friends are lighthouse beacons on our journey.”
“What’s a lighthouse beacon,” asked Alia.
Pointing down the beach in the direction of the old lighthouse, Jeff explained:
“A lighthouse beacon is the light that shines out over the waters at night to warn ships of
treacherous reefs and rocks; the beacon keeps ships out of harm's way and guides them
home to a safe harbor.”
They sat together quietly for a while watching the waves, then Jeff continued:
“Choosing to live a life of service means there will be plenty of joys, but there will also
be challenges and even some treacherous reefs and rocks. It’s during those times you
must allow others to serve you, be a beacon for you; which is why it is vital to have true
and trusted travel companions.”
Alia dug her toes deeper into the sand and stared quietly out at the horizon for a
long time. Jeff was patient, giving her time to think about all he had said.
As the sun finally broke through the clouds and covered the beach in rays of golden light,
the answer she had been searching for seemed to burst into Alia’s mind at the same time.
“So if I’m going to be a true star-thrower then there will be times I am the thrower and
other times when I am the star…is that right?” she asked excitedly.
“Yes, that’s exactly right, Alia. To truly be of service we must learn to be good at giving
and receiving,” said Jeff.
As the sun sank slowly into the sea they began their walk back up the beach.
“Alia, you’re on the threshold of a grand adventure, but you can only make the journey
one step at a time,” he said. “Be curious, take risks, listen to your heart and give
everything you do your best shot. Try to do this in every facet of your life then watch to
see what amazing things happen. And if you get lost along the way always turn back to
“Thanks Jeff. I learned a lot today and I’m excited to become a star-thrower just like
you,” she said and then happily skipped the rest of the way home.
That night as she lay in her bed, Alia had a vision of millions of stars dancing in her
head…and just as she was drifting off to sleep she tossed the first one back into the sea.
© Cheryl Cutting 2012
This is a fictional story about an actual gift I received from Jeff Evans. I hope you
enjoyed reading about this gift as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Remember
what Jeff said to Alia: Listen to your heart, give everything you do your best shot and
look for ways to be a star thrower along the way! If you do this then amazing things are
sure to happen!
By all accounts, Jeff Evans is just a regular guy; he is a down-to-earth country boy who could live next door to you and is about as nice and unassuming a person as you’d ever hope to meet.
That being said, Jeff is also an acclaimed adventurer, speaker, author and world-class mountaineer and climbing guide who has chosen to live a life of service. It is difficult to put into words the magnitude of Jeff’s willingness to sacrifice in order to be of service to others.
Jeff can be captivating and inspiring, but in the most down-home sort of way, and his slight southern accent puts you at ease as he dances you towards the answers to questions you may have. Like cool lemonade on a hot summer day – Jeff both refreshes us and slows us down so we can see more clearly what living a life of service truly means. He is a role model for me and this story was my attempt to give him a gift in return for the gifts he has given me.
You can learn more about Jeff and his adventures at: http://www.mountain-vision.com/
*The Star Thrower story told by Jeff is credited to Loren C. Eiseley (1907–1977), although it is a variation on the original.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
|My mom with Bucky and Anne - Summer 1981|
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.
R. Buckminster Fuller
BUCKY’S GIFT: Making a Difference
By Cheryl A. Cutting
“One person can make a difference,” Bucky said.
“But I’m just a kid,” Alia replied.
“Even a kid can make a difference,” Bucky answered patiently.
Alia thought about this as she sat watching Bucky write at his crowded work
table. Could it be true? She wondered, could a kid really make a difference in the
“How do I do it, Bucky? How can I make a difference in the world?” Alia asked as she
fidgeted with a colorful model of his funny looking dome invention.
Bucky set down his pencil and looked thoughtfully at Alia through his thick glasses
which made his eyes appear huge like a wise old owl’s.
“First, my child, you must think about what sort of difference you’d like to make.
Take a look at the world around you and see what is needed; then pick a path, begin your
journey, and expect miracles,” he said with a smile as he paused to sip some hot tea.
While Alia considered this, Bucky picked up his pencil and began writing again.
“What do you mean, ‘expect miracles’?” Alia looked confused.
“Many people believe miracles are extraordinary events which rarely happen, but in
my experience they are natural occurrences which happen all the time,” Bucky told her
without looking up from what he was writing. “Think of miracles as road
signs on your journey; when miracles happen the Universe is letting you know you’re
going in the right direction.”
“What kind of miracles?” asked Alia. “Do you mean like walking on water? I don’t
understand.” With this she got up and began to wander around the room touching the
seemingly hundreds of books lining his shelves. She wondered how any one person could
read so many books.
Bucky looked up at her now, and as he spoke she thought she saw a twinkle in his eye.
“Miracles, my dear, are most often simple things. Like when everything goes just right
or when little unexpected things happen to make your journey go more smoothly. If you
pay attention you’ll begin to see miracles all around you.”
“But how do I know which path to choose?” Alia wanted to know.
“Just pick a path, any path at all; then head down the path and expect miracles. If
miracles happen you’ll know you’re on the right path; if they don’t then simply change
paths,” he said matter-of-factly as if this answered her question completely.
“But what if I pick the wrong path?” She pressed him.
He took another long sip of the steamy tea and his glasses fogged up so much it made
“My dear child, there is no wrong path,” he said to her through foggy glasses. “All paths
lead us somewhere and there is always more than one way to get where we want to go.
The good news is if your vision is clear and you stay alert, the Universe will help you
navigate by all the little miracles which happen along the way.”
With this Bucky stood up, walked to a massive bookshelf and took down a road atlas.
“Come here, Alia; take a look at this,” he said as he laid the enormous book open on his
work table. “If you want to get from San Francisco to Boston there are any number of
roads you can take.” He drew his finger across the colorful map in different directions to
show her. “There is no right or wrong way to get from here to there; no right or wrong
path. Do you understand?” He asked.
“Sort of,” she replied. “But it’s easier for you, Bucky because everyone says you’re a
genius.” Alia was trying hard to understand, but felt it couldn’t be as easy as he was
Bucky laughed and said, “If you call me a genius then you let yourself off the hook quite
nicely. Don’t do that.” He paused to consider his next words and then said thoughtfully:
“The only difference between me and anyone else is I have a clear vision of the
difference I want to make in the world, and I have stuck with it even when times were
“But you said when miracles don’t happen I can just pick a new path,” Alia replied as she
took a sip of the tea she had been ignoring.
“When I say ‘change paths if miracles are not happening’ I don’t mean you should give
up simply because things get difficult. There’s value in challenges because they help us
grow,” said Bucky. “Sometimes it is us who need to change rather than the path.
There will be times when you change paths, and other times when you’ll need to be
patient and stick with it.
“What difference would you like to make in the world?” Bucky asked her.
“I don’t know yet,” Alia admitted.
“Well, if you’re willing to travel with your eyes, heart and mind wide open you will
walk your way into your answer.”
He pointed toward the large window in his office, and motioned her to look out at the
busy street below.
“Right here is where your journey begins, Alia. Today is always the perfect day to start
an adventure, and miracles are waiting for you right outside the door,” he said. “Make
brave choices and then pay attention so the Universe can guide you.”
“It seems a bit scary,” Alia confessed.
“If you were all alone it might be frightening,” he admitted. “But along the way you’ll
meet wonderful people who will share their gifts with you, and this will make your
journey so rich and exciting you won’t have time to be frightened.”
“Gifts! I love gifts! What sort of gifts will they be?” Alia asked eagerly.
Bucky sat back down at his overburdened work table and thought a moment before
“Every single person you meet will have a unique gift for you, Alia,” he said finally. “It
will be up to you to discover what it is.”
“What should I do with these gifts?” She wanted to know.
“Be thankful for them and never take them for granted. These gifts are the treasures of
your journey and they are meant to help you along your way.
The most important thing you can do is share the gifts you receive because gifts get better
when they are shared. If you do nothing more than share your gifts you will make a
difference in the world,” he told her. With that he picked up his pencil again and began
“Thank you, Bucky,” said Alia.
And the next time he looked up from his work table the bright afternoon sun was shining
through the open door and she was gone.
© Cheryl Cutting 2012
This is a fictional story about an actual gift Bucky Fuller gave me when I was a young
girl. I hope you enjoyed reading about this gift as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with
you. Remember to keep your eyes, heart and mind wide open so you can discover the
gifts waiting for you on your journey; and when you find them don’t forget to share!
R. Buckminster Fuller
Bucky’s real name was, Richard Buckminster Fuller, but he preferred more simply to be
called Bucky. He was regarded by many as one of the most important figures of the 20th
century. Bucky was known the world over as an architect, inventor, designer,
philosopher and visionary. When I met him he was 85 years old.
Bucky lived his life trying to answer one question; he wanted to know if humanity had a
chance to survive successfully on Earth, and if so, how? He loved this planet (he called it
Spaceship Earth), and he loved all people. He worked to find ways to make sure our
planet would survive, and all people would survive and be healthy and happy together.
One of the most extraordinary things about Bucky was he believed one person can
make a difference, even on a big problem, if they set their mind to it. He had a large
vision, he served humanity and he was living proof one person really can make a
difference. If you want to learn more about Bucky’s inventions and ideas you can find
information about him on the internet, at your local library, or by contacting the
Buckminster Fuller Institute: www.bfi.org