Last week nearly 150 local students of all ages gathered in Keystone to mark the passing of another successful year for SOS Outreach, a national youth leadership program with deep local roots. After attending the rite of passage for the last few years I was certain I knew just what to expect. So I was caught off guard when the words of one graduating senior challenged my complacency. Any recap of the night would be glib compared with this young woman’s insight. Fortunately, Betty Cross agreed I could pass along some of her thoughts, in quotes below.
“In the past five years in SOS, I have been learning about and wrestling with the five core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion. I hope to give you a taste of what I have learned regarding these qualities. Let us start with perhaps the most important one of all, and certainly the one on which the others hinge: courage. Courage is necessary for any of one’s other virtues to be manifested. There comes a point, where, in the acting out of one’s personal virtues, these character qualities will be stretched, strained and tested. Courage is when, in the face of these inevitable trials, we put our trust in the intrinsic goodness and truth of our values and live out our beliefs despite the risks and inconveniences.” Wrestling is one sport not often attributed to SOS, but certainly captures the spirit of Cross’ views.
She continued, explaining “discipline is the second step, after being courageous enough to stick by what we originally determined. We are to push forward, to carry on.” But the journey is not complete as wisdom is required “to properly accomplish the task of living out what we believe. Wisdom is a tactful word, a clever solution, a closed mouth and an open mind.” Integrity serves as the “thread that runs through all core values,” tying them together. Integrity allows us to live “our values through the public eye with private conviction.” Finally, she beautifully captured her view of compassion as “a mixed passion, compounded of love and sorrow.” The ability to “hurt with the hurting, and strive to alleviate the problem as if it were our own.”
Deep thoughts indeed for someone only now embarking on adulthood, and they might be merely words, except after speaking with Cross I was convinced otherwise. When I offered my congratulations for a job well done, I joked about how my daughter and I planned, on our return home, to look up some of the bigger words she used. The look of concern that washed over her face was unmistakable. “Which ones?” she asked, letting me know she’d do whatever she could to help. When I smiled, letting her know that we really were just letting her know we were impressed, she laughed right along with us. Our conversation was interrupted when she was surrounded by a drove of younger SOS kids who seemed innately drawn to her. The girls shared a moment of silliness as they spread glitter and laughter into the night air, and it was clear this was a young woman intent on living out what she had so adeptly described.
Cross is one of the many home-schooled students in Summit County who will graduate not only from SOS but also high school this spring. Like several of her counterparts at Summit High School, she’s put a few college credits under her belt thanks to CMC, and plans to attend Summit Semester this fall to further explore various worldviews, and to strengthen her core beliefs. After that, she hopes to attend Texas A&M for math or education, or perhaps pursue musical passions. And then, well, it seems the sky truly is the limit. We wish her, and all other graduates whatever path they have chosen, well.
Any article about SOS would be deficient without a mention of the Vail Echo program — a big business intent on making change one small snowboarder or skier at a time — as well as all of the other sponsors who year after year underwrite much of the SOS endeavor. I suppose they are not so surprised when these kids go on to make their mark. Thanks, SOS, and sponsors, for the gifts you bring to Summit County.
Cindy Bargell lives in Silverthorne. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.