The year was 1912 and the newspaper ad was from the London Times and it went like this: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return is doubtful.”
This, from a more heroic age when men would bet everything they had, even their lives, on less than ideal conditions to explore far off places like the southerly most ends of the earth.
Ernest Shackelton, a Brit who headed several expeditions to the Antarctic, took out this particular ad.
He would set off on ships with names like Endurance – that one was crushed in an Antarctic ice flow before the landing party could even get onto the land – and when he wasn’t living with this sort of disaster, he was restless and rather unsuccessful and, it would seem, lacking any amount of joy in his days.
No surprise he died on one of his expeditions – he happened to be my age – and is buried under Antarctica’s icy tundra.
I recently shared his Times ad at the medical missions conference in Korea that My Bride and I spoke at. It’s the sort of thing that any of us can hear.
Because it’s not just the Shackeltons of the world who do better when we take on some amount of risk, but any of us do better when we move past just getting out of bed and checking our email and putting out the garbage.
In the letting go of what we think is ours, our days take on new value, not unlike the man who bought an entire field just to get the precious pearl in it. He knew both the cost and the rewards.
Jim Elliot, put it this way. “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Later he was killed by Huaorani natives in Ecuador. He wasn’t yet 30.
So how many do you think answered that London Times ad?
“One!” someone yelled out from my Korean audience.
No, one account has it closer to 4,000. And while the ad was meant for men, eight of those responses were from women.
We crave our lives to mean something.
There is not much more to say about our Korean time except that tonight the children will get their gifts that we picked up along the way. And in our family, there is now a line that runs from Korea to Antarctica.
Because, before leaving for the trip, I was preparing my notes and digging up that old London Times ad and Liz came to me and showed me her homework.
We’re studying some explorer to the Antarctic, she said. Some guy named Shackelton.
Ha. What are the odds?
Good. So very good. We can study together.