A year ago, I went on a hike with my son's class to an area by a large lake. The "beach" was a hill that ended in a series of large boulders. Some of these rocks were larger than my house. The way through meant climbing up and over, down and under, and bracing ourselves precariously between two and inching along. In their excitement, everyone took off to reach the point - the goal of the hike. I set off with a group, but we did not have a leader or a set way to check on each other, and quickly became separated. Halfway though, as it began to drizzle, my foothold on a moss covered rock slipped. I fell and was tightly wedged, badly scraped between two large boulders with one arm stuck above my head. I hollered and hollered for help, but there was no one to hear. The waves drowned out all sound, the rain continued to fall, and I was out of sight.
I was not accountable to anyone.
In trouble then, I was alone. There was no one who knew I needed help. Any one of my fellow hikers would have wanted to rescue me and no doubt would have if they knew about my circumstances, but they did not know. There was no one who would have noticed until we reassembled at the bus three hours from then that I was missing. I had not been accountable to anyone.
I did manage with great difficulty to extract myself and, holding my injured arm, to finish the hike and meet up at the point with others. I had learned my lesson. For the way back, we organized ourselves in a group of five. We chose a leader. We decided to help each other, to be accountable.
It meant doing things I wouldn't have chosen. I am terrified of heights and will choose to go under rather than over large rocks. Another in our group intensely disliked going into small spaces. Crawling under boulders had her almost blacking out in fear. Both of us had to give in to go together. Our leader led through places neither of us wanted to go. When I said, "No, I can't", my team said, "yes, you will.", but they also said, "Here, hold my hand." and "Here, I'll sit here on this ledge between you and the edge. You can hang on to me." When my fellow hiker said, "I'll get squished in there, no! It will never come out!", we said, "I'll go first, and tell you each step of the way." and "Only a few more steps and it opens up to the sky again, you can make it!"
We all made it out safely. No one left behind. No injured people trapped where they couldn't get out. Together we were safe.
Exhausted, but happy, we stripped to the basics and plunged together into the ice-cold water to rinse off the grime and sweat. Then shivering in the cold wind, we dressed and began carefully picking our way over the pebbly beach to the bus.
Accountability - it is a beautiful thing. It does require some submission to each other. It requires limiting ourselves to the weaknesses of others, but the value is priceless.
I won't fall alone.