Chris Perry Column: Don't Give Up... Don't Ever Give Up

Chris Perry •

March. Hate Month.

It is a time-honored tradition on Nantucket. We hate everything right now. The weather. The high costs associated with living out here. The dearth of local restaurants with a consistent breakfast option. The often-cancelled fast ferry. The lack of civility amongst our fellow residents. We even hate the neighbor’s dog.

Often, we make light of this topic. But for many, the depressing conditions are very real. Mental health issues stemming from isolation and loneliness, limited options for exercise, lack of sunlight and gray, demoralizing days can be insurmountable problems for many on Nantucket. Sadly, the debilitating effects can last a lot longer than the 31 days of March with potentially tragic consequences.

Unless you spend the entire month on Turks & Caicos, it is hard to avoid the depressing effects of Hate Month. Thankfully, there are glimmers of hope out there that can help restore some lost faith. In fact, it can come from a complete stranger.

More specifically, I recently lost my money clip. Along with some cash, it held a few credit cards, my BC/BS health insurance card and my driver’s license. As we all know, it is not about losing a few bucks that hurts but it’s all about the frustrating battle that lies ahead. The time and energy required to speak with a warm body at BC/BS, to set up new credit cards and to schedule a successful visit at the local DMV is about as much fun as taking a bath with a toaster. It’s no picnic.

Soon after realizing that I clumsily lost it somewhere between my house and the paddle courts, I got a call from Ken Turgeon from Cranberry Transportation who advised me that someone posted on the Nantucket Year Round Community group on Facebook about finding my money clip in the Stop & Shop parking lot. It did not take me long to buzz down to Stop & Shop’s Customer Service desk where Tracey Harvey handed over my clip, cards and all my cash. She said, “It happens more than you think - purses, phones, wallets... you name it. All I can tell you is that it was turned over by a young male.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to identify the good soul but came up empty. Nevertheless, that “young male” did me a solid and it helped restore some lost faith in humanity at a time when we could all use a little reassuring that there is some light at the end of March’s tunnel.

I mention this story because I feel good this morning thinking about that total stranger who went above and beyond. There’s no “Hate Month” in me today; and while I don’t want everyone to go out and lose their money clip, potentially good things can happen even during Hate Month. And for that, I am thankful.

In return, and with a nod to the “young male” out there who still remains anonymous, I want to pay it forward and mention something that I do every March. My suggestion may not have the same effect that it does on me each year; but coincidently, someone out there who may be struggling might find it beneficial during Nantucket’s present Hate Month. To the naysayers who find my suggestion a reach: you are right, I am no mental health expert. And truth be told, my suggestion may appear to have nothing to do with Hate Month on Nantucket. But that’s the beauty of it. Initially, I did not think the positive outcome of losing my money clip did either.

Some background:

For those of you who are not familiar with Jim Valvano, he was a legendary college basketball coach starting out at Rutgers in 1967 then Johns Hopkins, UConn, Bucknell, and Iona before ending up at North Carolina State in 1980. He went on to win the men’s NCAA basketball championship for the Wolfpack in 1983 as a huge underdog. After a brief stint as Athletic Director at NC State, he eventually took a job as an ESPN analyst. Sadly, Coach Valvano was diagnosed with glandular cancer and died in June of 1993.

As Coach Valvano would say, one of his proudest moments off the court was being named the inaugural recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the ESPY Awards in March of 1993. It was at this ceremony in Madison Square Garden that Jimmy V. gave his famous “Don’t Give Up - Don’t Ever Give Up” speech and one that I watch each March.

For those on Nantucket this month, I suggest you do the same.

While many people remember the emotional context of the speech, the creation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research and the fact Jim Valvano addressed the crowd crippled with “tumors all over his body,” the crux of his speech centered on “three things we should all do every day....”

Number one: Laugh.

Number two: Think.

Number three: Cry.

As Jimmy V. said that night roughly three months before passing away: “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.”

This week is the 30th anniversary of Jimmy V.’s speech. I have rewatched it three times since Saturday and it inevitably puts things into perspective. I know I will laugh today and I am pretty sure I will think today but I can’t say my emotions move me to tears every day. Thankfully, I have been saving an article about Michael McGuire - a 29 year old coal miner from Pikeville, KY - for later tonight and I have been told it will satisfy Jimmy V’s third suggestion.

But more importantly, it is Coach Valvano’s final seven words that remain his most powerful: “Don’t give up... Don’t ever give up”.

For those on Nantucket during Hate Month especially if you are struggling, please watch this speech. It is maybe five minutes long. It’s not about basketball or cancer or raising money. It’s all about survival and getting the best out of life. And for some on Nantucket this month, that’s all they want to do: Survive.

Again, I am no expert on mental health issues, especially on Nantucket. But I do know there’s help available. I’d like to list all the options and pass along important phones numbers but I can’t. Inevitably, I’d forget one or two. And, you know... it’s Hate Month. I’d get plenty of texts telling me how insensitive I am for intentionally leaving them out. Consequently, I think it’s best to simply say:

“Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up.”

Especially if it’s Hate Month.

Chris Perry is an island resident and a regular columnist for Nantucket Current.

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