Bargell: Some life lessons never go out of style
Last week there was a great deal of coverage and conversation about the Snowboard Outreach Society (SOS) graduation ceremony. Over 100 kids from throughout Summit County were recognized for their dedication to the values and service promoted by this youth character development program. The graduates comprise a burgeoning population of midget skiers and boarders you might see on any given Saturday at A-Basin, Breck or Keystone (thanks to our ski areas for supporting this program). For five Saturdays this ski season, these kids and their leaders, called Sherpas (a much cooler name – literally), met on the mountain and were challenged to think about what it means to live their lives by five core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion. They were asked to define these values for themselves. Go ahead, give it a try – it’s not as easy as it sounds. Kids and Sherpas alike were encouraged to exemplify the values on the slope and in their lives. The program’s unique ability to simultaneously impact the lives of both kids and young adults truly is impressive. At the graduation potluck, SOS founder Arn Menconi asked, purely rhetorically I’m sure, what the adults in the audience remembered about their childhood lessons in these core values. My mind started to drift back …My dad was a football coach – from Texas – in the ’60s. Think “Friday Night Lights.” Dad would be the first to admit he was not perfect and rarely politically correct. In fact, I am sure he never once corrected me by saying something I was doing “was not OK.” Instead, when he yelled “stop that” to my sister, brother and I, we stopped – nearly every time. I also am pretty certain we did not sit down to discuss core values. Dad was, however, without doubt, a man of integrity. His lessons in courage and discipline echo in my ears, daily. For Dad, sports and coaching provided an answer to many, if not all, of life’s difficult questions. Any time I wanted to give up on an endeavor concluding that “I just can’t do it,” his first response always was “don’t say I can’t, say I’ll try.” If you hear that nearly 1,000 times (or was it 10,000 times?) during adolescence, it tends to stick. Looking back, it’s interesting to me that he did not simply tell me to think “I can” but instead admonished me to try, recognizing that genuine effort is the precursor to any success. One of Dad’s other favorite maxims dealt with excuses. My kids know it by heart. Whenever I had a very good reason for not accomplishing something, Dad would listen, and then patiently explain: “Excuses are like belly buttons (honey), everybody has one and they’re all worthless.” The beginning – and often the end – of our discussion on discipline. Much to my disappointment, Dad, while a teacher, never asked me what grades I received in school. Instead, his only question when report cards rolled around was whether I had done my best. You see, there is no arguing with complete effort – whether the result is an A or a D (or an E or W on the newfangled cards). He often explained that, at the end of the day, no opinion really matters – except that of the person you see in the mirror. Don’t disappoint yourself. Never giving up and always doing your best were things he believed in, truly to his core. These are the lessons I hope echo in our girls’ ears on core values. And, while taught a bit differently, these lessons really are no different from the core values focused upon in SOS. I am glad to see, and I think Dad would be too, that some lessons never go out of style. Sadly, Dad did not live to see his granddaughters on snowboards, although I think he really would have really enjoyed it. He passed away on January 1, 2000. I am convinced he lived just long enough to smile when the dire predictions of the end of the world proved wrong, and to hear that his granddaughter, born just three days before the millennium, made it safely to her new home in Summit County. He’d be glad to know that she and her sister love sports. And, I think he would approve of them adding the SOS motto “Spread the Love” to their repertoire of lessons on core values. Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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