Sitting around the dying fire at Friday night’s holiday party with most of the party goers having left and the last few stalwart folks starting to pack it up, someone asked me if “this” – motioning with his arms in a large circle and pointing at the people and the gym – was what I thought I would be doing when I retired from the Navy in 2019.

I heard so many things in that question.

First, of course not. No one KNOWS what the future will hold. I don’t believe it will ever be in our human capacity to perceive the future in the same way we perceive the past, despite the argument by determinists who believe in the block universe theory where all things in the universe are set and that if we had the sufficient level of intelligence and mathematical skill we could predict the future from what we know of the past and our current state. This is the fundamental concept in Issac Asimov’s Foundation series that has since been made into an AppleTV+ show. I enjoy the story’s metaphorical examination of the human capacity to forget the lessons of history at our own peril. But I digress.

In asking me that question, I think there was actually a shared awareness of the essence of what we have at Fairwinds CrossFit, so, if I’m finally getting to an answer, then yes, this essence is the thing that I felt was possible when we started back in 2017 and I would say even before that when we had something going out of my garage for a few years.

It’s this essence, or community as some would call it, that I think was on display on Friday night. 

It’s the thing that so many other CrossFit affiliates and their members say makes their box special.

It’s the thing that I recommend people get a sense of when they are moving and looking for a new CrossFit gym to join.

It’s the thing that can’t be sold but that we value more than anything else.

It’s the thing that can’t be quantified because it’s unique and irreplaceable.

And it’s the thing that one person, especially not just me, can create on their own but that keeps all of us coming back.

I say that last sentence not in some attempt at false humility but in full awareness of the fact that our community is a byproduct of every single person who has walked through our bay doors…yes the bay doors and not the exit door, though if you have walked through the exit door to come in, it’s okay, just stop doing it because it’s an exit not an entrance…there’s a pretty clear sign now so I’m not sure why that’s confusing…what were we talking about?

Oh right, community…essence…got it. 

I am not an open hearted person. It takes work for me to be vulnerable and let folks in. But I found a business partner who is, to a fault, and in that, I found someone who would be willing to make my weaknesses strengths and would be willing to balance out this emotional equation.

Coach Eric recently told me a story about how he was working with his kids and getting them to be a part of his daily routine. As he started the story, I could feel my insides twisting into knots as I imagined the eggs and pancake batter and laundry and all the shrapnel of their daily chaos bomb exploding in his house and yet he was smiling. 

The idea, he said, was that so often kids are given a task to get them out of the way. To keep them busy. To distract them so that us smarter, more efficient, more effective adults can get the real work done. But kids are way smarter than we give them credit for and they freaking see this. They get it. 

Unfortunately, they also can begin to get the sense that we don’t want them around. Or worse, we want them around but we want them to be some impossible version of perfect and so the stakes in this emotional tug of war become way too high and the next thing you know, you either have a kid who goes off and alienates herself from you – hello teenage years – or you find yourself with a kid who creatively finds way to get your attention – hello real bombs and calls from the cops.

But Big E decided to lower those stakes and start small. Fi folds the laundry – sometimes badly, sometimes not so badly. Fi whisks the eggs – not that badly but sometimes a little messy. Fi sweeps up the chalk or cleans up the weights – thanks Fi, Coach Jack appreciates it. 🙂

Bottom line, Fi has her own routine, her own way of doing things, her own essence of what it means to belong to the family and that essence is respected, seen, and desired by the family.

It sounded so simple and it is, but having the willingness, the patience, the courage, to sometimes let the day NOT follow a set plan, to show up a little late to something because the pancake batter didn’t stay in the bowl, to sometimes leave shoes and food wrappers in the car means that another human being feels seen, loved, and wanted and isn’t that what we’re all actually here to do anyway? 

If you’d asked me in July 2017 if I thought I would be at the Fairwinds CrossFit that we are all now at in December 2021, I couldn’t have told you where it would be, what it would look like, or that we would be sitting around a fire pit with 50 of our fellow gym buddies, but I probably would have looked at the wall ball targets in my garage, seen the smiling face of my bro Eric and I would have said, yes, I can see a place where people don’t just come to do CrossFit but rather come to a place where they can be seen, be loved, and be a part of making themselves a better human being.

That’s the thing I knew for sure back then and that’s the thing that I am so grateful to be a part of today. I am so grateful for all of you, I am so thankful for your generosity in the gifts that you gave me and the other coaches this year, and I am so overwhelmed by the willingness of so many other people to open their hearts to us every day and let us see them work so hard towards being the best versions of themselves.

We’re gonna make a mess. We’re gonna be late from time to time. We’re gonna fail lots of times before we succeed.

Let’s keep the stakes low, folks. Small steps. One day at a time with open hearts. I’m game if you are.

I’ll see you down on the Creek.

-Coach Jack