This post has taken some time, mostly because it is both important and thought-provoking. This is my tribute to a young man named Jerry, who touched the lives of many, including my friends Lou and Fran. Sadly he is no longer with us, but he lives on in the hearts of the people who loved him, and Lou and Fran have chosen to sponsor the Rainy Pass checkpoint in his honor.
As many of us are still struggling with the horror of current events, I am acutely aware of the difficulty of writing a blog in memory of a young life lost too soon. Any time a young life is cut short we are left with questions and an empty hole where all that human potential should have been. What might he have accomplished, what adventures might have been? It is apparent talking with Lou and Fran that Jerry’s life would have been rich with both accomplishment and adventure. That was the main reason they picked Rainy Pass for Little Jerry, a remote and rugged checkpoint on the technically difficult yet amazingly beautiful Alaska Range section of the Iditarod trail. They write, “I’m certain that Jerry would have found his way to Alaska. He would have made his way to the highest seemingly most foreboding and harsh parts and there he would have thrived. Jerry was learning to fly his Dad’s plane and would ride along while I taught my son to drive. One can’t help but reflect on where he might have gone. Probably he would have learned to fly fighters in the military, or maybe become a sniper; he really could have done anything he wanted.”
In trying to find a way to honor this young man’s memory, I struggled with the sensitive nature of the topic. But it was recently, while running in the Top of the World 350 sled dog race, that an idea started to percolate in my brain. As I personally felt the importance of my influence on my young team setting out on what will hopefully be a long and successful racing career, I knew in my heart that I had a responsibility to the next generation of Dew Claw dogs. The idea grew as I realized that we ALL have this same ability and opportunity to have a positive influence on the next generation. It need not be your own child, every child needs and deserves a rich network of support to help them grow and develop their full potential. In honoring Jerry I would like to focus on the wonderful relationship he had with Lou and Fran, as an example of what we all can do to enrich the life of a young person. Taking the time to work with a young person enriches your own life as much as it does theirs. To mentor or reach out and touch the life of a young person is a gift. It is an honor to be able to share your life and pass on the things that are important to the next generation. Right now there is much focus on the senseless loss of life, and many people are feeling helpless. But I am here to suggest that there is hope.
We have all heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child,” and yet how many of us are acting on that maxim? What role do we play in raising the children of the next generation? Following the horrific school shooting in Newtown, CT, President Obama stated, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.” “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. (sic) — then surely we have an obligation to try.”
Well, we are that village, and we are the ones charged with doing better. Take a look at some of the issues that our young people today face and ask yourself, “What can I do?”
It may be as simple as being that caring adult. Or sharing a skill you have with a young person interested in it. Taking the time to both listen to their life’s dreams and share your life’s experiences. It may be as important as taking a stand: Against bullying, racism, hate, and intolerance. It may be as powerful as instilling in the young people you know a sense of their worth, value, and potential.
In this world we all have the ability to do better than this. With our words and actions, in the way we live our lives and treat others. Lead by example, and, to paraphrase a great example and leader, Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”* Do not feel overwhelmed, this challenge is one we are all capable of accomplishing. And if you need a little motivation, remember the words of an average woman who believes she can do great things: “What is the difference between impossible and possible? I M” ~ me