I love 3-Gun and guns in general. It took me almost a decade to start up and build a 3-Gun program that today is run by great people and I believe long term staying power.
Doing so was a huge effort, literally taking up hundreds of hours of my time.
Last month, I abruptly decided to walk away from it all.
Here is why.
Responsibility gives your life meaning. The more responsibility you have, the more meaningful your life, but there’s a catch:
Responsibility also taxes all of your resources.
Over the past decade, I have taken on more and more volunteer responsibilities with my gun club, in particular building up a successful Youth and 3-Gun program.
Over the past 2 years, my 3rd daughter started having serious health issues which were clinically diagnosed last year as “Global Developmental Delay.” I had never heard of it at the time, but I’ve come to learn her condition is best described as “mental retardation.”
She is a special needs child.
At first, I held out hope that it wasn’t a serious condition and she would just grow out of it, but as time progressed, I was proven wrong. In some ways, it actually has gotten worse.
Caring and treating for a special needs child is a tremendous responsibility. It’s extremely taxing, more so than the biggest Young Guns or Action Shooting League shoots I’ve ever directed.
One of the hardest parts of being a shooting program director is the constant struggle to resist the temptation to vent and act on your frustrations. If you want to build up a succesful shooting program, losing your cool and getting upset when things don’t go your way is the surest way to fail.
Coincidentally, that’s also the biggest struggle in coping with a special needs child, only it’s a 24/7 struggle you can’t get away from as opposed to an occasional, casual one you can just tune out by quitting Facebook and not checking your e-mail or returning calls.
With a special needs child there often are no gratifying achievements like those you get when you run a stage clean or when you safely run 50 kids through a course of fire.
With a special needs child, there are stretches spanning weeks or months of nothing but struggle with no apparent reward. It’s hard and the temptation to give into the anguish and tragedy of circumstance is constant.
I’m ashamed to say in some of our darkest moments, I’ve done just that.
In my worst moments, I’ve taken to telling many of the guys I shoot with that I so regret having children, that I regret everything about becoming a parent and the personal hell of coping with a chronically sick child makes all aspects of parenthood (including courtship and marriage) a path no sensible young man should walk through.
(The worst is the feeling of seeing your child suffering, being completely unable to help them, and constantly second guessing if your best intended actions were the cause of their pain.)
My heart has darkened through this experience, which is why I’m walking away from my responsibilities directing both Young Guns and Action Shooting League.
Even though I care deeply about both programs – my family is a responsibility I can’t walk away from that doesn’t leave enough for me to shoulder the responsibility of the others.
Another challenge building up successful shooting programs is relationship management.
Previously, for me to do so required living out two important principles from my Christian faith: first to “Turn the Other Cheek” and second “to go the extra mile.” (Matthew 5:38-42, for anyone interested).
Simply put, to put others before self.
I think that was the reason I was able to grow both Young Guns and Action Shooting League into successful programs, because I constantly put others before myself.
That has been extremely difficult.
Especially recently, for me to have done so I had to put others before my family.
Last month I hit the breaking point where I couldn’t do it anymore.
So, I’m not.
There are some key lessons I hope to share through this.
The first being to take your health and the health of your family very seriously. In particular, be extremely mindful of the food you eat, because nutrition is far more important than any other factor related to your health.
If you are married or have children, the health of your spouse and children is far more determined by what they eat and for the most part most of what we are encouraged to eat in Canada is terrible for our health.
Second, if you choose to take on big responsibilities such as starting and directing a shooting program OR getting married and starting a family, think long and hard about what those responsibilities entail. Don’t assume any responsibilities beyond your capability to carry and if you hit the point where your health (or the health of the ones you love) is suffering from shouldering them, be prepared to cut them out – even if you care deeply for them.
Third, if you are a part of something that is the by-product of someone else’s burden of responsibility, nothing helps them shoulder that burden than your gratitude. With Young Guns and Action Shooting League, what kept me going to direct both programs was the constant displays of gratitude from many of enthusiastic participants.
The best form of gratitude many of you have shown was your willingness to step up to shoulder those burdens with me. You guys know who you are and let me conclude by making it clear that I am grateful for all of you who were there with me through the thick of it.
You who sacrificed your time, talent, and treasure with me to make both programs possible – I am grateful for everything you have done.
I earnestly hope one day either the burden of my responsibilities lightens or I become capable to gracefully shoulder them.
If and when that comes to pass, I look forward to seeing you all on the range again.