In case you missed, I climbed a mountain. I traveled to Tanzania with my dad and brother at the end of June and spend nine incredible days climbing the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world: Kilimanjaro.
It was breathtaking – literally. The views were incredibly beautiful and I was short of breath a lot. By the way, when they say it’s “hard to breathe” at high altitudes, they don’t mean inhaling is difficult. They just mean breathing doesn’t suck oxygen into your body quickly enough.
It was exhausting. We walked 30 miles uphill over six and a half days. We were on the trail eight or more hours at least five of those days. We climbed up out of one and then into and out of two more canyons on one day. We descended 20 linear miles and 2 vertical miles in a day and a half. My muscles did not forgive me for a week.
It was inspiring. My dad, brother and I intentionally made it a time of bonding and spiritual retreat. We planned a book together. We sang, told stories and teased each other; we encouraged, hugged and prayed for each other. We are already talking about what we want to do next.
It was humbling. Seeing a tree that has stood 15,000 feet above sea level for 180 years will make you rethink your place in the universe. Realizing that entire ecosystems existed on this mountain for thousands of years before any human climbed up to see them fills you with awe. Considering the difference between impossible and very difficult takes on a new dimension in that environment. Emptying your guts into the snow and clumsily slipping to slide down several yards of ice will remind you that you are weak.
I meant for this trip to be a metaphor for the uphill climb to restore school libraries. Somehow we have come to accept that it is possible to build strong readers without a healthy school library and have given ourselves permission not to do anything about the embarrassing shape they are in (both the readers we are growing and the libraries they have access to in school). Over the last couple of months, I have repeatedly heard friends and acquaintances say ‘I could never’ about Kilimanjaro. And that’s our attitude about school libraries too. Casting off this mindset and healing our libraries is going to be tough. It is foolish to think that naming the problem and reversing decades of decision-making are the same thing. There will be headaches. We will probably have the wind knocked out of us. We will have to stay on the trail for long hours and many days.
But I say it’s worth it. The main reason me, my brother, and my 70-year-old dad all made it to the top is that we decided not to quit before we started. Before we had any idea how hard it would be, we promised each other to keep going until we got to the top – and to help each other get there. I now promise this: I will not rest until the libraries in my district are all in the shape they need to be.
Thank you SO much to the more than 50 people who contributed to #Kili4Kids. Thanks to your generosity, we raised almost $3,800 for Tuscaloosa City School libraries. I take these donations as a vote of confidence and as motivation to keep working hard. The funds will go directly to our libraries!
Now the real work begins. I have two invitations.
- Tuscaloosa City School’s library collection campaign, “Strong Libraries, Strong Schools” officially launched on Monday (7.30.18). We are committed to raising EVERY school library to the “exemplary” level. We don’t have a hill to climb to make this happen, it’s a mountain. It is going to take a few very big donations and LOTS of small donations to make this happen. Visit http://www.tuscaloosacityschools.com/libraries to learn more and to donate.
- Tuscaloosa only has 18 of the school libraries in Alabama. Almost all of the more than 1,600 school libraries in our state are in desperate need of help. We ALL need to be doing this work. Start by finding out what state your school library is in. Is the collection big enough (15 books per student)? Is it young enough (average of 11 years or less)? Join the awareness campaign that needs to become a movement: #MyLibraryStory We can do this but only if we work together.
I am just one guy and definitely can’t do this alone. But I believe that we owe it to the next generation to make school libraries strong. And that we absolutely can. Join me; I’m already climbing!
P.S. If you enjoy pictures and videos of adventures, check out bit.ly/Kili4Kids to catch up with mine.