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Ever hear of this guy? Erik Weihenmayer? He’s a badass. He’s the first guy to climb each of the tallest peaks on all seven continents…blind. Yes, even Everest. He’s also the first person to kayak the 277-mile stretch of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon…blind. He may have lost his vision when he was only a teenager, but he’s never lost sight of what it means to live life to the fullest and be a good person along the way.
This is clear in his recent opinion piece in The Denver Post. It’s titled “Let’s Make Americans Great–Always.” He writes about how Trump’s message of “Let’s Make America Great Again” is misleading. First of all, every one of us are surrounded by amazing people doing amazing things. And second of all, no one of us can make a country great, but we can make ourselves better. And that’s where the power lies in creating a brighter future for our families, our communities, and yes, even our country.
Weihenmayer suggests that exploring the outdoors is a powerful tool for self-improvement, creating a solid sense of purpose, and fostering strong relationships among our communities. I know I’ve found this to be true going all the way back to age 10.
I grew up with an abusive, delusional step-father and a misguided, aimlessly truth-seeking mother who dragged me through a series of religious cults, fringe spiritual groups, and political activism during my formative, school-aged years. Exploring the wild as a trail runner, a mountain biker, a rock climber, and a snowboarder all helped keep me grounded in the incredible beauty that surrounds us. The outdoors is also where I met most of my best friends, many of whom I consider closer than family to this day.
People who revere nature are pretty trustworthy people. They tend to live honorable lives that place value on respecting others and working together to resolve problems. Weihenmayer suggests that all Americans could benefit from spending time outdoors, exploring open space, and challenging ourselves in the wild. I completely agree. If anything, spending time in the outdoors reminds us all that there’s more to life than the latest tweet, the latest alternative facts, or the latest anxiety-inducing headline. There’s a whole other world out there, and exploring it will go a long way to making each of us better humans, better Americans. Always.