On February 9, 2022

Thank you, an antidote to what ails us

By Karen D. Lorentz

As if the pandemic’s shift to an endemic isn’t enough for weary souls, David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, has observed that bad behavior has become rampant.

Despite people driving less, they’re also driving more recklessly and fatalities are up as is the murder rate. People are becoming more abusive — students, parents, hospital patients included. And if we follow the news, we are well aware, as he points out, that gun violence and hate crimes have spiked.

Then there’s the mental health problem that has managed to affect all manner of workers and children of all ages. In a nutshell, the news is none too great these days.

A sermon message from Pastor Wendy Savory, who is also a teacher, explained the toll the times and ongoing pandemic have had on students, noting it is known as “emotional dysregulation.” (This can manifest as a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, irritability, and frustration and adversely affect their ability to function in the classroom.)

Support and encouragement are required to work through troubles, she said, adding, “Ultimately anyone who is trusted and reliable, a source of support, may have success in helping with dysregulation.”

As I pondered the dilemma of the isolation and problems of bad behaviors and dysregulation, it came to me that I have recently witnessed the “nice” side of people and experienced how truly uplifting that has been. That’s when it occurred to me that the real gift of skiing lies in the connections of people to other people and in their sharing of pleasantries as well as the joys of the day.

I found a sense of kindred spirits prevails. Not just for families or friends who ski together, but for guests and workers alike at Killington.

Experiencing nice and joy again

Having lost my husband and best friend of 56 years to cancer in 2019 and then being hit with the pandemic-imposed isolation from friends and family, I had been struggling with sadness for so long as to wonder if I would ever experience real joy or true happiness again.

Then last winter I did a story about the Killington Ambassador Program and was encouraged to join them. So I became a nervous, first-year volunteer ambassador. However, the training days, friendliness, and helpfulness of other ambassadors encouraged me and helped me to feel supported and connected.

Being an ambassador gets me out of the house and into the fresh air with invigorating exercise — which releases the “feel good” hormone serotonin. Additionally, the “job” itself has uplifted my spirits. My days of greeting guests in the morning, answering questions on the mountain throughout the day, chatting with guests on the lifts, and giving end-of-day directions back to a base area have made me feel useful, appreciated, and connected to others, the sport, and to a part of myself I had lost.

I had lost an ability to feel real joy, but meeting so many nice people helped to overcome the “bad behavior news” and restored my belief in the innate goodness of people.

This process began through the experience of standing in the cold for two hours, greeting arriving guests — skiers and snowboarders of all ages. It’s hard to believe, but everyone responded to, “Have a good day” with a thank you and many added, “You, too.”

Of course, they were in a good mood because they were going skiing or riding, but even those with problems responded appreciatively to the help offered. Even when I held a door open for people going into rentals, everyone said “thanks.” And no one was upset when I reminded them to mask up to go inside. If they didn’t have one, I retrieved one from a cashier at the ski shop and again, they said “thank you.”

It also made me happy to see how nice the workers are. I saw staff at the ticketing windows patiently explain things to guests (and on occasion to me when I asked a question). When an elderly gentleman got locked out of a locker, a person in retail told me to get Oliver from rentals, and he quickly solved the problem. Another young worker showed me how to work the hot chocolate machine without my asking and told me to show my pass so I could get the ambassador discount for my lunch. When I stopped to check on a child struggling to get up and then followed him down the slope a ways to ensure he’d be ok, I was surprised to be thanked by a ski instructor.

On my latest end-of-day assignment, I was stationed at the intersection of Caper and Great Northern where I either confirmed the way to the desired base area or gave directions to it and was thanked every time!

I also counted two hockey-stop-huge-sprays of snow, five jumps over a small lip on Caper, one aerial snowboarder trick, one request to watch for a separated son in a greenish-yellow helmet, oodles of kids following parents, and one tired rider collapse. I loved it all!

It reminded me of my younger days when I could experience the exhilaration of a little jump or follow Dad down a trail. It connected me to a joyful part of my past and reinforced the bonds and fun to be found in skiing. And when one man responded to simple directions with, “Thanks Karen, you’re the best,” it made me chuckle as it warmed my heart.

Please pass on the good vibes of simple “thank yous” and have a great day.

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