Part 5 of our closer look at National Geographic’s candidates for “Adventurer of the Year” brings us to Shannon Galpin.
Anyone with the stones to call themselves an adventurer, will eventually smack into this idea of “heroism.” Hero is a word we throw around way too easily in our culture. We use it for sports figures. We use it for celebrities. We use it for soldiers who just do their job. And there is heroism in serving your country. But for me, even this pales in comparison to serving an ideal nobody asked you to serve. At great cost and great personal risk, for no better reason than you saw it had to be done.
Enter Shannon Galpin, a 38 year old mom and mountain biker from Colorado who decided one day that signing petitions wasn’t enough to change the world.
Video courtesy of MoveShake.org
It is impossible to tell the story of what she’s done without acknowledging the events that brought her there. Because – to paraphrase Shannon – where we were broken, we can be stronger than before. We need not be victims. Through telling our story, we become the catalyst for change.
So these are the events: At eighteen, heading home from work, Shannon was brutally attacked, raped, and left for dead. She told herself she would not live as a victim, but as you can imagine, this was no easy task. It took energy. It took focus.
Thirteen years later, her little sister was also attacked. And enough was enough. The year was 2006 and the country was deeply mired in war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Shannon got the idea to take her fight into the very teeth of the monster.
Afghanistan. A country rated the worst place in the world to be a woman. A country where women had no right to work or be educated. Had no right to love or to marry outside the family’s will. Where Afghan soldiers would throw acid in the faces of young girls for daring to attend school.
Out of the middle of Colorado, selling her own house to finance it, Shannon Galpin traveled into a war zone to say “no.” These women would no longer be your victims. She would encourage them. She would teach them to speak out. She would empower them to tell the stories they kept hidden. To use the crimes against them as evidence of social injustice.
Wow. In a country like that? With no rule of law and where violence against women is as common as swatting a donkey? And where – need we point out – foreigners are not safe… THAT, my friends, is heroism.
“Through the heartbreak of one, we plug into the many,” she says. Meaning that the problem of social injustice is easy to ignore. The story of two ten year old girls, who have acid thrown in their faces for attending school – is impossible to ignore.
In August 2010, Time Magazine ran the story of one of Shannon’s girls, Bibi Aisha, on its cover. Apologies for the graphic image, but like we said, the story of one person, a person who could be our sister, or our daughter is a lot harder to ignore. The brutality visited upon Afghan women took center stage, if only for a moment. And the world recoiled.
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
~ Mohandas K. Ghandi
You could not find another adventurer living this truth more fully than Shannon Galpin. Please check out her organization, “Mountain2Mountain.org” or her presentation at TEDx. An amazing woman.