Van Beek: Approaching the finish line |

Van Beek: Approaching the finish line

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” — Rikki Rogers

As a place that breeds one Olympian champion after another, we learn the cost and benefits of reaching for the impossible, pushing limits, going beyond what may be considered human endurance. Yet, not only do we survive, we actually flourish under the pressure, like a diamond in the rough.

As many challenges as mountain life often presents, we can still be overwhelmed by the unexpected. Even though our Olympic participation may be limited to viewing, we are a population that tends to push life beyond our comfort zone. This year was a test on precisely how resilient we truly are.

Due to issues beyond our control, we have endured a global pandemic, which is still affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. It began with restrictions that were only supposed to last a couple of weeks, then a couple of months, and now approaching a year. It has taken a multidimensional toll on everyone.

The finish line is approaching; some say, between early summer and late fall. However, we must acknowledge that the fears we have been experiencing are real.

I mention some below, not as a message of doom, but as an inspiration to our fighting spirit. We are nearing the end of this abrupt change to our daily lives, yet we may surprise ourselves and discover that we’ve developed some unique abilities that we may want to keep. As Bob Marley said, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.”

2020 caused people to extend way beyond their comfort zones and by summer’s end, riots became commonplace across the country. While there where valid concerns being addressed, the level of violence was jarring, and no one emerged feeling any better.

In addition, we had one of the most contentious and downright hateful political election seasons in modern times. Even at this stage, people are still hostile about how it all came down. Relationships were lost over who supported whom. In self-preservation, many quit watching the news because it only flamed the fires of resentment on all ends.

Our office has been filled with increased cases of domestic violence, drug overdose, attempted suicides, those struggling with food insecurity, and concerns about evictions.

Mental health organizations are dealing with unprecedented numbers of those in depression, substance abuse, anxiety, childhood depression, developing fears of vulnerability, isolation issues causing a deep sense of loneliness, perhaps never before experienced.

In addition, health issues were being ignored for other “more pressing” concerns, and it created sometimes fatal conditions, which could have been prevented by regular medical treatments.

In education … kids have been suffering beyond just missing daily class attendance. Not only are their academics failing, the social disconnect, the masking of communities, the distancing of even family or close friends, the elimination of sharing experiences and growing up together; all of it has been traumatic, with the effect potentially lasting a lifetime.

Young adults are missing monumental life experiences such as graduations, college, weddings, new career opportunities, travel, even simple neighborhood gatherings.

Adults are suffering severe economic stress, career loss, the possibility of losing a home, and even concern about feeding the family. Seniors who are in care facilities are becoming disoriented and fearing that they will die alone.

I mention these things because they are not imaginary concerns, they are genuine, and the surrounding stress is mounting, causing increased social, legal, and societal problems. These are tumultuous times.

This collective sense of grief can be overwhelming even among the strongest of us. Yet we, as Americans, are optimistic by nature. We must view these challenges as an unexpected adventure; one that has serious implications, but that also is inspiring us to achieve in areas that we hadn’t preciously considered.

We are being called upon to write a new chapter in our history; one that our ancestors would have fully understood. They suffered disease, lack of food, battling extreme elements, facing unpredictable situations, all while they raised families, earned a living, and ventured forward, towards a dream that many considered impossible. History shows us how those challenges also sparked amazing innovations.

We are engaged in the marathon of our lives … it is not a sprint. Endurance, determination, cooperation, positive mindset, unusual patience, and tolerance of others. These attributes accompanied a tough pioneer spirit, which also included a gentle heart, one that built communities and took care of those less fortunate, which considering the circumstances, was relative.

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” — William Barclay

There is glory in winning, and we are on the road to conquering these challenges and will emerge stronger and more connected than ever before.

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