I’m guessing that to most people who stop in at the 7-Eleven store in Connecticut, Lhakpa Sherpa is just another foreign worker earning minimum wage as a cashier.
I’m also guessing that most people going through the drive-through at a Popeye’s restaurant in Philadelphia just look at employee Shymara Jones as a young black woman struggling to survive.
While those perspectives may be accurate from the outside, there’s a lot more than meets the eye in the stories of these two women.
Lhakpa Sherpa, a 42-year old born in Nepal climbed Mount Everest for the seventh time on Friday, breaking her own record for the most summits of the world’s highest mountain by any woman, a hiking official said. This despite the pain of watching her marriage unravel and struggling to support herself and her three children. Along with such family problems, there is also a general lack of respect for Sherpas who do the bulk of the work on such climbing expeditions.
Shymara Jones, 22, has worked at a Popeye’s fast food restaurant since 2009, but in the past two years she has visited the Eiffel Tower, met fast-food workers in Brussels, picketed corporate meetings in Chicago – twice – shook hands with politicians, led marches down Broad Street in Philadelphia, and plans to rally outside the McDonald’s annual meeting this week. A high school graduate with a year of college, she has gained an education in economics, in the workings of corporations, in labor law, in franchises, in networking, in forming alliances. She has become a local leader in the Fight for $15 movement to raise the minimum wage.
There’s so many things that could be said here:
- our job does not define who we are
- we are all capable of great things
- don’t assume you know someone until you get to know them
- have the courage to pursue your goals
- the power of one individual to make a difference
The two stories got me thinking about how I sometimes make judgements about people and what their lives are like simply from a two-minute interaction with them.
Who knows what amazing people I’ve missed getting to know because I never took the time to find out what makes them tick.
I’m sure there’s a cashier at a Wawa that’s checked me out who spends his free time working to make a difference in his community; that there’s a student in my class who has become passionate about tutoring children in low-income neighborhoods; that there is someone working at the the local Mom’s Organic Market who is active in protecting the rights of animals.
So I’ve to be more willing to try and get to know the people I interact with on a daily basis. I am sure they are all leading extraordinary lives.
And I wish Lhakpa and Shymara continued success in making a difference in the world.