Almost every weekend in the winter my wife (Cindy) and I head to Vermont for some downhill skiing. While the skiing is exhilarating and great exercise, I have come to enjoy the time on the chair lift just as much. On the lift, time stands still. As you crouch to sit, the chair swoops you off your feet into the air. Suspended from a cable, skis dangling below, the world floats away as you journey to the top of the mountain. Since double person chairs have all but disappeared, four and six passenger chairs have become the standard, bringing strangers together like never before. Crowding together as we shuffle up to the red “load here” line, there develops this strong desire to connect. Strangers at the bottom oftentimes become friends by the summit, stories and jokes (my specialty!) being exchanged. Then all of a sudden the Raise Safety Bar sign appears and you realize you need to wrap up the conversation quickly by introducing yourself and say goodbye, perhaps forever (for the record, Cindy cringes every time I open my mouth on the lift, not knowing what silliness will come out).
Perhaps it is the gently swaying of the chair, the beauty of the mountains, or the invigorating air, but something almost hypnotic occurs that inspires one to share with strangers. In particular I enjoy conversing with children. They never cease to be amazed that I know them by name even though I have never met them before. Little do they realize that their names are emblazoned like a beacon, on their skis and helmet.
Over the years, we have met skiers from all over the world, of all ages and backgrounds, each with their own dreams and life stories to tell. Much is the same every day when I connect with patients in the clinic. Over the course of care, which often last for weeks, you get to learn about each other’s lives. For the last 40+ years I have been living the dream, and God willing, will to be doing so for many more.