The phrase “pack your own weight” comes from trail hiking and means that each person is responsible for carrying her own food, tent, sleeping bag, etc. You do not ask anyone to pack your weight. You do that yourself. You are responsible for you.
Packing my own weight is a value that resonates at an extremely deep level with me.
Packing your own weight does not necessarily mean you do not ask for help if you truly need it. There, is after all, the social compact. We are all community members, team members. One of the most basic tenets of a community, of a team, is that you help those who really are in need.
Yet there is flip side of asking for help, several duties and obligations that arise:
– One does not ask for help until one has exhausted one’s own resources
– Implicit in the above is that one has a duty to do a decent job of stockpiling resources so as not to be a frequent or unnecessary burden on others
– One does not take more than one needs (first, it’s only polite and second, resources are limited and there are others in need)
– One pays it back (or forward) as soon as possible, with interest (give back more, perhaps many fold more, than was taken)
I once set out to climb Mt. Rainier. I was not the oldest person in the group but I was a close second. It was a hard climb. The pace was 50 minutes of hiking, 10 minutes rest, repeat, repeat, repeat to exhaustion. The air was thin and oxygen was scarce. We hiked single file in heavy snow and the main objective was to put your foot exactly in the track left by the person in front of you, as this minimized wasted effort. The other objective was to cram as much oxygen into your lungs as you could. This meant breathing every breath as deeply and rapidly as you could. Imagine your first desperate breaths after holding your breath for a couple of minutes. That was how we breathed for 50 minutes at a time.
At one point I fell out of line. One of the guides came back and offered to carry my backpack for me. I still remember the surge of adrenaline that went through me. He had touched on a core value of mine and inadvertently found the perfect motivation for me.
“I pack my own weight,” I replied and immediately got up, energized and motivated, and rapidly caught up with the group.
This is a classic from the NSC Blog archive. Originally posted May 12, 2008.