Making the world better
At this moment in the waning days of March, as I gazed out the picture window at 7,900 feet, over toward Beaver Creek, it was sleeting or snowing, I could not really tell which. Maybe it was sneeting. Or slowing. Not sure which would be proper. But I do know that whatever was falling from the sky was making tinkling noises inside the fake fireplace, and little tap taps on the deck outside. I rooted for the snow and colder temperatures to prolong the best winter since high school. I have been very blessed in my life to have been born into a loving family, with parents who cared and wanted the best for their boy. Not the best from a standpoint of having the latest toy or pair of sneakers, but the best from knowing right from wrong and to say “thanks” when someone does something nice for you. I worked hard for 23 years to make a company profitable in any way that I could make a contribution and I was compensated in the typical monetary form. But last Dec. 8, I had had enough. I walked out and away from the only company I had ever worked for since graduating from college. All I wanted to do this winter after quitting the corporate world was to give a little back. To somehow make life a little better for a day or two for those who have been dealt what most of us would call a “bad hand.” I volunteered to help out in the adaptive ski program at Beaver Creek. The adaptive program provides instruction to individuals with disabilities and makes their ski experience more enjoyable. As I have said many times, and I know it may sound a little hokey, all I want to do is make this world a better place. It has been an awesome winter. Unstructured time away from corporate America is good. It allows one to cast aside the daily demons one encounters back at the office, from unthankful bosses to unnecessary policy councils to self-important managers of nothing. Even on the worst day of going to the mountain, with the spring break crowds, the less than perfect snow conditions, the aches one might feel from a recent header off a snowbike, it pales from walking in with all of the zombies who can’t break themselves from the white collar 8 to 5, or in many cases, 8 to 8 and more at home. My payment this winter has come in non-traditional ways: a smile from a little boy who has Down syndrome after spending the day taking pictures and videotape of him learning to ski; getting the opportunity to joke and laugh and ski with an inspiring little girl who lives with cerebral palsy and having her give me a high five at the end of the day; skiing with paraplegics who love life for all they can do, not what they cannot; and being thanked over and over again for snowbiking with a guy who has multiple sclerosis just because you took care of him on the slopes. My wife tells me I have smiled more this winter than anytime since she met me nearly six years ago. Bert Boyd, the supervisor of the adaptive program, says I arrive at the mountain with a smile on my face and I end the day with a smile on my face. Skiing and helping out with disabled skiers has also brought many smiles to my face that neither have seen. And also a few tears along the way. I have figured out a few things about myself in this winter of volunteering. While “thank yous” cannot be cashed in at the bank or taken to the store to buy groceries, they can fill up your heart to overflowing. I have been rewarded more, by those who have less, than I ever was in 23 years of corporate life.I would like to say thanks to my loving wife Linda, for allowing me to quit my job and chase my dreams. I would like to say thanks to Bert for giving me the opportunity to give something back. I would like to say thanks to the adaptive ski instructors who have the patience of Job and hearts the size of a Grouse Mountain mogul. And I would like to say the biggest THANK YOU to the eve- inspiring skiers that I had the privilege of skiing with in the adaptive program during this greatest winter ever. If you ever get the chance to volunteer and help out those who are less fortunate, get past all the reasons as to why you cannot do it and make a difference. It will be more rewarding than any paycheck you have ever received.