Going the distance for others…and then there are those who even go farther

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - 19:00
Brent Voorhees in Hunter Pass.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”

— T.S. Eliot


A recent column about “going farther” during hikes and climbs got me to thinking more about those who go the extra mile for others. The thought was fresh in my mind because of the recent death of Anchorage’s Jim Crockett, a tireless advocate for the homeless and hungry.

For more than a decade, Crockett was executive director at Bean’s Café, which each day provides hot, nutritious meals and a warm, safe shelter to hundreds of people. He also spearheaded the creation of the Children’s Lunchbox program, which provides access to food for hungry children.

This year, like it does every year, the Café served a Christmas meal for hundreds upon hundreds of people. It was a much different dinner for everyone, however, because of Crockett’s absence.

An Anchorage woman I’ve known for many years, Linda “Jay” Jackson, has voluntarily raised more than a million dollars to fund eye cataract surgeries in Nepal, where it is a widespread problem. For the past decade, year after year, she travels to the country and coordinates with doctors to bring these surgeries to remote villages. Jay’s told me that having a Nepalese adult or child look back at her with clear eyes and big smiles is all the thanks she needs.

Going way beyond: There are those who go beyond every day, such as doctors and nurses, fire fighters, school teachers, social workers, policemen and women, clergymen, scientists, politicians, our military troops, U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers---the list is endless.

And then, there are some who have gone even farther. The orderly rows of white crosses at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia are testament to the ultimate sacrifices so many have made for our freedom.

Postman’s Park in central London, located a short distance north of St. Paul’s Cathedral, is a monument to civilians who sacrificed their lives for others. Opened in1880, it contains tablets, or plaques, denoting the date, life-saving circumstance and name of the person who perished in the act of saving others’ lives. For example: “John Cranmer, aged 23, was drowned near Ostend whilst saving the life of a stranger and foreigner, August 8, 1901,” or, “Leigh Pitt, Reprographic Operator, aged 30, saved a drowning boy from the canal at Thamesmead, but sadly was unable to save himself, June 7, 2007.”

Many of us who have lived through 9-11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, or other natural disasters---both in the U.S. and across the world---have been personally touched by the heroism and sacrifices some have made for the sake of others. Fortunately for humanity, helping others is built into our DNA.

Before his death in 2008, if you asked Sir Edmund Hillary to name the high point of his life, I doubt he would tell you it was standing on the summit of Mt. Everest on the morning of May 29, 1953. I think he would say that it came in his later years when he helped the people in Nepal with reforestation to combat erosion as well as his work on schools and other projects to improve their lives.

As we move into a new year, I’m inclined think about how we might all venture farther in our lives. For me, the mountains and valleys will always be there. But I am drawn toward broader horizons. The longer I live and the more I see how people can positively affect other people, I feel compelled to take up that challenge.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River. To contact Frank: [email protected]

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