I was asked on the chairlift last Saturday by a junior sherpa for my favorite core value.
I answered, "Compassion. It means to be able to understand the suffering of others. We all suffer, and the best way to lessen our suffering is to outreach to one another and give back."
As a parent of a 6- and an 8-year-old, the tragedy at Sandy Hook grade school profoundly impacts me. I started SOS in 1993 with the righteous indignation of how wrong it was to live in a country where 6,000 kids were being killed by guns every year, more than each year of the Vietnam war except 1967. It made me mad as hell and want to do something. Today marks the 19th anniversary of SOS.
As I work with the core values, the service projects and leadership skill development, I truly wonder whether I am making an impact on their future besides their love for sports and the fun on the hill.
At Vail on Sunday, I rode with a junior sherpa in his seventh year of SOS and in two other leadership programs and applying for college.
As we ate lunch and talked about leadership, I expressed to him that I was out of integrity with the vision of the curriculum. I said it was a disservice to say we are teaching leadership.
I said, "We are teaching social justice. It's harder. It has always been my vision that we would be teaching youth how to right a wrong, and that you have to start with your core values."
As we work with the core values with the students, we start to see how they interplay in our own souls and consciousness. It builds resolve in our hearts and we hopefully act more virtuously. Everyone does it in a different way and with ideally some awareness, we get better at instilling them in our lives and lessen the suffering in our own hearts.
There will always be the fight with the fear of backing down, the complacency and indifference, or possibly the hardest: how overwhelming the problem might be. That is why values are wrapped in faith, hope and love. To bring strength and comfort.
I am so extremely grateful to be part of a movement that takes on such a nearly impossible task to bring change to another's suffering, the world and our hearts.
From all of us at the SOS Outreach family, we wish you the most happiest of holiday and a blessed new year.
Arn Menconi is the founder and executive director of SOS Outreach, formerly the Snowboard Outreach Society.