There was a pleasant stillness in the air.

My friend Lee and I were sitting on the banks of a placid glacial lake called ‘ Tsho Rolpa’ . We had been treking uphill for the past 5 days and we’d finally reached our destination at 4550 meters above sea level, barely 5kms from the Nepal-China border.

It was the first time we had seen a glacier feed a glacial lake that in turn became the source of the mighty Rolwaling-Kosi river we were trekking on the banks of for the past few days.

As the weather turned moody we decided to walk back to the village where we were staying.
As soon as we reached back at our host’s place, Lee fell asleep right away.
I assumed that he was worn out by the long walk and needed rest.

He woke up only briefly in the evening to have dinner and disappeared in the blankets for the rest of the night.

Hoping that he would feel fine by morning, I too rested myself for the night.

The next morning, I awoke to find Lee sitting peacefully on his bed.

‘Lee, How do you feel now?’ I asked.

‘I feel so happy about what happened yesterday’ he shared with a lilting half smile on his face.

‘You mean, our journey to the lake?’

‘Yes that too. But I am happier for something else.
Do you know, I had such a severe splitting headache ever since we got back from the lake?’

‘Ah, altitude sickness is it?’ I asked.

‘Yes.
It is the first time in my life I experienced altitude sickness.
I have trekked so much all my life in Korea, led teams of upto 80 people on treks, but I have never faced this situation before.
Many people in my teams would experience health issues at high altitude but I could never help them in the best manner possible for lack of experience.
Now, that I have experienced it,
I can understand the situation of another human being who is going through altitude sickness.
Now I am in a better position to help someone in need.’

I could only nod and marvel at the beautiful way he turned a hardship into a learning experience.

‘Indeed Lee, You are in a great position to help. Now I can scale more mountains with you.
If I ever feel altitude sick,
You’ll empathise and help me out won’t you !’

His peaceful face was half lit from the sunlight infiltrating through the seive of the curtain.
He nodded.
His demeanor was placid as the lake we saw yesterday,
Holding the promise to flow like a mighty river,
Seeking to help someone in need at every moment possible.

This little interaction was a deep sermon.
I would often relate leadership with power, rank and authority.
But this warm hearted person, through his own experience,
Taught me how,
The foremost quality in a good leader,
Is Empathy.

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