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As I sit in the hot and stuffy Sunday school room, mind wandering, hands fidgeting, I glare into this man’s tired and nervous brown eyes, grudgingly repeating in my mind, “Who do you think you are to try and help me with my life? You don’t know me or what I’ve been through so how can you possibly give me any advice that could help me in any way?”
The only two words I remember Matt Larsen repeatedly saying that day were “Be There.” They didn’t mean a thing to me at first, but as I grew into a young man with him constantly etching life lessons into my mind and helping me out daily with dilemmas and mistakes, I began to understand those two words through the positive example he became to me. At first he was just another know-it-all guy who could put anyone to sleep with his lessons but after associating with him constantly, my view of him changed, from senseless, rambling teacher, to a life-long friend.
Two years after that lesson I remember sitting in his basement with one of my best buds and his son, George. We had just stumbled inside and immediately ran to the basement to escape the blistering summer heat and to sit on the plush, purple couch of boredom. On some of these days where the heat was unbearable, we would just plant our butts on the couch until we fell asleep, awaking up later that evening to, “DINNER!” and the welcoming smell of warm, freshly baked rolls and tender sweet pork. As my second family and I would gather around the old but sturdy, massive oak table, Matt would ask, “What did my boys do today to change things up a bit?” George and I would answer with a blank stare and he knew right away that we had slept our day away and that we had accomplished nothing. He would ponder the message we put across for a few moments then say “I will personally fix both of your bikes tomorrow and you can go ride the dirt trails in the foothills of the mountains.” another common answer would be, “How about going on a hike tomorrow?” or “Lets take out the boat!”
I was over weight at the time and lacked self discipline, self confidence, and creativity. Therefore, I did not have the slightest desire to do most of these activities. His friendly suggestions did stir a slight ember of imagination however, and I eventually learned to create my own active methods of fun that would require me to use energy. I was also able to incorporate my new found creativity into other aspects of my life like school assignments and dating. The one suggestion that I always loved to hear from him, despite my exhaustion and laziness, was boating.
I remember the long drives up to the cabin being the only one awake in the car amongst the passengers, gazing out at the lush, life filled, pastures of grass and peering up at the mountains as they drifted by ridge after ridge. I would get into a trance like state of mind from watching the blur of colors flash before my eyes and a voice would pull me back into the clean, cool, and quiet family Excursion.
“Bryce, where are you going?” Matt would question.
I would pause and think to myself, “Does he think I'm stupid? I’m headed for bear lake with him and his family.” So after giving it some thought I would blurt out, “We’re going to bear lake!”
“No I mean in life.” he replied in a more serious tone than before.
At first I was baffled and hand no clue of what to say so i turned back to the peaceful landscape outside to give it some thought. After about a half hour of serious meditation on this question I would look to him through the rear view mirror and say, “Larsen, I want to be just like you.” Then my curiosity of those bright gorgeous speeding colors would carry me into a world of dreams about the destination we were headed to.
The car would ease to a stop and I jumped out of my sleep immediately and burst through the open car door sprinting down the grey sand and not stopping until the waves of the bear lake were tickling the tips of my toes.
We’re flying across the crystal clear, blue water now, me trailing behind behind the boat holding on to a rope with a board strapped to the bottom of my feet. Starting, I can’t even stand up and it gets to the point where I’m punching the water in frustration. Every time I fall, I say I'm done for the day and pout in the frigid water with chills covering my body. At that point, Matt pulls the boat up to me, throws me the rope and yells, “Your not done. don't you want to say you’ve been there and done that?” I yank the rope from the water, sickened by his persistence, and actually get to the point of standing. I hate him when I’m in the water but at the same time I loved him for actually having faith in me. Before I knew it he was pushing me to go further, to push my limits on the wake board.
As I would lay there later that night in the soft green grass around the warm campfire, babbling on and on about how thrilling that ride was, grinning over what I had accomplished that day, he would say 3 words. “Told ya so.”
I took this lesson to heart and learned to push myself in more than just wake boarding. I learned to push myself in things like school, physical activity, and talking to people. I eventually lost my excess weight and began to emerge from my hermit hole. My grades improved too because for once in my life, I had motivation. Motivation to be like this man who was almost like a God in my eyes.
Now I stand in front of a crowd of family and friends, ecstatic about the eagle scout award I’m about to receive. Smiling to the front row where Matt Larsen sits. Thankful for how hard he has pushed and sometimes pulled me to get this because he knew what it would do for me.
“Bryce,when you receive your Eagle Scout Award a pin comes with it for you to give to someone else who you feel has helped you earn this.” a man whispers into my ear.
Without a second thought I announce, “Could Matt Larsen please come up?”
After the Eagle ceremony I’m reaching for another piece of cake when I hear a familiar voice. “Bryce you’ve come a long way from six years ago.”
“What do you mean by that Larsen?” I ask, puzzled.
Then he says something that brings back a flood of old feelings and emotions as a young child who had no place in life, “You were able to be there.”
I grinned, now understanding his lesson he taught me years ago, and replied, “If I’m always there, how could I not be in the right place at the right time?”