I have a friend; let’s call him Johnny to protect his identity (though that’s actually his name). Johnny is a member of Vail’s Bravest and one of the best guys I know. He grew up in Vail, Colorado with two brothers, spending the majority of his time outside in the wilderness. Johnny’s parents instilled strong values in their boys. They are great parents. All three of the brothers are generous and kind, thoughtful and wise. Perhaps what sets Johnny and his brothers apart more than anything, however, is their resilience.
Born directly from the abundance of time he spent in nature, Johnny’s resilience developed incrementally, in small steps, through the challenges nature presents and the example it provides. Through fire and rain, nature perseveres. Nature is rough, rugged, dirty and vast. It can be intimidating. Its mystery is frightening. Submersing oneself in that environment inherently breeds fortitude into those who stay long enough to absorb it. Challenges taken while removed from civilization, untethered to the comforts and safety afforded the municipal world, force self-reliance through an intimate understanding of personal capability and potential. This is resilience.
Johnny has resilience in spades. Just weeks before joining Vail Fire he was airlifted out of the backcountry after nearly dying in a fall while rock climbing. Nowhere near healed, he forced himself through fire academy with a mindset that prioritized progress over the intense pain radiating from broken bones and fresh wounds. His circumstance was not ideal but his understanding was such that his external stress could not deter his internal will. He would use that will, like he had so many times before, to revoke any fear that failure or uncertainly might introduce. This is called Bravery.
Having spent a childhood influenced by time in the wild, Johnny understood himself, his values and his ability. He understood that pain was a reflection only of his estimate of it and that he could control its effect. The abilities to temper discomfort and to overcome adversity are skills that Johnny continues to cultivate with bravery and resilience through challenging life experiences. His unshakable demeanor and humble self-confidence make him one of the most dependable fire fighters on the department. His presence is comforting, an assurance that progress will not be halted so long as we don’t allow it.
As I spent time wandering the woods today with my dog, Sophie, I couldn’t help but hope that centuries of distress and challenge had stitched qualities of resilience and bravery into the social fabric of the United States. I want so badly for us to discover that the recent pain we feel is external – that it can be invalidated through simple acts of kindness in accordance with the values we know to be true and just. We are neither the puppets of our politics nor the reflection of our President. We are the people, a collection of unique individuals with the understanding, strength and freedom to control the direction and influence of our lives. Now more than ever is the time to put those qualities on display and demonstrate to the world that America is already great, we just plan on making it greater…
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” ~ Marcus Aurelius