I lead a charmed life.
I work with kids, smiling, laughing, playing for a living. I get to see them rise to the occasion, overcome obstacles, and learn to deal with setbacks. I get to have fun at my job and to make a difference. I deal with kids who have bad home lives, who seek refuge with me, who need a friend and a mentor and a confidant. And when they’re with me, it’s good. It’s truly good.
I can think of nothing a person can do that’s better. I can think of no purpose more worthwhile than creating that sense of wonder, a feeling of belonging and safety in others. I can think of no greater good than inspiring others, aiding others, making others happy.
And I strive to be better at it every day.
I listen to other instructors complain that they didn’t get tipped enough. I hear them moan that their students were inept. I see them rage because of the makeup of their class. And it kills me because they’re missing the point.
Every day, we have this incredible opportunity. We can believe in someone who may not believe in themselves. We can give them a chance to be better than they thought they were, to walk away having defeated their own greatest enemy, an enemy we can’t even see. We can provide them with courage and humility, with wisdom and understanding, with all the tools they need to conquer the world.
There are days where my students don’t receive the gifts I’m offering. There are classes where I walk away wondering whether my time has been wasted, my effort for naught. There are moments where my frustrations and patience wear thin and I feel like I should be doing something else.
And then I remember why I do this.
I do this for the girl whose parents don’t have time to waste on the bunny slopes with her. I do this for the boy whose father thinks ski school is day care for while he’s ripping turns. I do this for the kid whose bullies constantly tell him he’s not big enough, strong enough, fast enough or smart enough to succeed. I do this for the young man who only feels free when he’s flying. I do this for the young lady who’s too unsure to leap, who just needs one word from someone she trusts to give it a shot. I do this for the boy who thinks he’s too fat to be loved, who thinks he’s too small to be respected, too stupid to get it, whatever “it” may be.
That’s why I do this.
When the lesson’s over, I give the parents a review. I explain what we worked on, what’s still to be worked on. I give them tips and drills and try to encourage them to guide their child themselves. I regale them with tales of how awesome their child was, of the things they’re now able to do. I tell the parents that we conquered dragons and slayed the mountain.
Too often, they smile and nod and take their kid’s hand, dragging them from the frigid slopes to a warm car and a long drive home. Too often their eyes glaze over, the technicalities and facts obscuring what their child really learned that day. Too often, they only want to hear that they graduated, that they’ve moved on, that there’s a grade at the end.
And sometimes, when they look into their kids’ eyes and they see how much stronger, braver, and more prepared for anything their offspring are, I think they hear the subtext.