About 5 years ago I traveled out west, strapped a pair of sticks to my feet, and recklessly charged down what seemed like the steepest part of the Colorado Rockies. In full transparency, it was a green trail (beginner) that was used mostly by 5-year-old kids who were making their first attempts at skiing, but I contest that those kids were prodigies destined for the Olympic ski team. Regardless of my erratic maneuvering and inability to turn right, I knew that as I jumped on the ski lift to make my next run – I was hooked. The beautiful scenery and views. The relationships formed with fellow skiers. The ability to learn and grow and seeing the tangible results of doing so. All experiences that I have come to love and look forward to when skiing. But perhaps the thing that I love the most about the sport is the wonderful parallels it provides to experiences in life, and the lessons that it has personally taught me. One of those lessons occurred while I was skiing in Alta, UT several years ago. Alta is known as one of the best skiing resorts in the country, and I had progressed in my ability to the point where I could ski just about anywhere on a mountain. I was beyond ready to go! However, upon arriving at the resort, it was quite evident that the weather was not aligned with my enthusiasm. The thick fog and extremely flat light, made it almost impossible to see and I thought the day was ruined! I was dejected. I was irritated. At that point, I was ready to call it quits and head back to the house. However, we decided to see if the weather was better at the top, so I reluctantly made my way up the lift, fully expecting that I would then be forced to blindly meander down the difficult terrain just to get back to the car. So, my pessimistic attitude and I hopped on the high speed Collins chair for the ride to the top. I remember the thoughts going through my head. “I already know what’s up there, so why are we wasting our time? Why did we just waste our money on a lift ticket? How am I going to be able to get down this stupid mountain without seeing anything?” But, as we made our way up the wire, I noticed it started getting brighter. The clouds and fog seemed to be breaking up. Then, we broke through. Fresh snow, a dark blue sky, and unobstructed sunshine. I could not believe it! In just 2 minutes, I went from not being able to see 10 feet in front of me to being able to see what seemed like every peak in the Wasatch Mountains. It was stunning! As we exited the chair and turned to evaluate our options, I couldn’t help but shake my head. What was I thinking! I nearly gave up on what was going to end up being one of my most memorable ski experiences in my life because of assumptions, rationalization, and an attitude of scarcity. It was a powerful lesson learned.
In looking back, if I had to sum up that lesson in one word, it would be “perspective.” Those perfect skiing conditions at the top of the mountain were not created by my decision to make the trip up the chair lift. The soft snow, blue skies and abundant sunshine were all there waiting for me. All I did was change my perspective by moving from the bottom of the mountain to the top. By taking just a small amount of action (although reluctantly), it created a new and powerful experience. So the question is, what experiences are we robbing ourselves of in life because of our assumptions, rationalizations, and attitude created from them? Perhaps worse, are we robbing others of those experiences?
Several years ago, I found myself in the crossroads of a decision after I was invited down to serve in the homeless camps of Indianapolis. Drawing on my lessons learned, I agreed to go. It was a day that changed my life. I was deeply moved by the conditions that the people in the camps were living in, as well as the injustices they faced solely on the basis of being poor citizens in our city. Something needed to be done, but I felt extremely unequipped to do anything to help. What do I know about homelessness? How am I supposed to relate or connect? The need is so great, what difference am I really going to make? Where am I going to find the time to do this? Just like that day at the bottom of the mountain, assumptions, rationalization, and an attitude of scarcity were all very present. The only difference was that this time, I knew that inaction was not an option. I needed to change my perspective. So I just decided to continue to show up and focus on building relationships with the people I was serving. I committed to learn instead of assume. To give grace instead of judge. To help instead of withdraw. Within a year, a small group of people who lived out those same commitments each week within the homeless camps of Indianapolis created a not-for-profit called Food 4 Souls. Since December of 2013, F4S has served over 10,000 meals within the homeless camps of the city, provided thousands of life sustaining items, including coats, blankets, tents, batteries, and toiletry products, and in the process, witnessed over 50 individuals be diverted or removed from homelessness. But as much as Food 4 Souls has helped the homeless community in Indianapolis, I assure you, no one feels more blessed than me. Seeing hope restored to someone’s life when they are ready to give up. Seeing the love and intrinsic goodness that the people of this city have as they literally take the boots off their feet or the gloves off their hands while serving so that a homeless individual can stay warm. Seeing people with nothing be SO thankful for what little that has been provided and shared with them. It’s humbling, and it has undoubtedly provided my family and I with a new perspective in life that I am beyond grateful for. As at the top of the mountain in Alta, I firmly believe that this perspective was waiting for me the whole time…I just needed to take some action to see it.