Transformative Experiences Abound
It's easy to take things for granted if you grew up with them. For example, when I was a kid, I lived within walking distance of a park with a nice playground and a lot of open space. My parents encouraged me to participate in summer theater through the park district. My dad took me and my sisters out for hiking and birdwatching. On the other hand, I never saw the ocean until I was 19 years old. And I can tell you that visiting the ocean for the first time (at Half Moon Bay in California) was a transformative experience for me. Suddenly, all the cool, know-it-all bravado that goes with that age dissipated and I was like a little kid, splashing and giggling at the waves.
A couple of weekends ago, as I was cleaning out a closet, I came upon a box of old photos, and, as so often happens, I forgot all about getting the cleaning out of the way. Instead, I let myself get sucked up into those memories of seeing the ocean. Also in that box was a photo of my friend Mike from his first-ever time in the woods. He grew up in an urban neighborhood with virtually no access to the outdoors. When he was visiting my hometown one weekend, I took him out to the preserve where my dad first taught me birdwatching. It was May and the river valley was all filled up with bluebells. At 24 years old, Mike had never been in the woods before. And, like me at the ocean, he felt like a kid again, experiencing the wonder of the place.
Those were transformative experiences. It feels great to interact with the world in a brand-new way. And likewise, it feels great to help someone else find that transformative experience.
This is something that happens day in and day out at recreational sites across the country. You get to be a part of providing those experiences. And it's not just the great outdoors that has this impact. Sports facilities, indoor pools, fitness clubs, climbing walls—the list of places that provide these kinds of interactions with nature and with people is practically endless.
It's easy to get bogged down in the mundane, day-to-day work, no matter what kind of facility you're running. But there's no doubt that sometimes, the things that happen in the day-to-day can change people's lives.