From Rags to Riches . . . Health Wealth, that is 😉
I knew when I first met this man who was running the retail shop at the Richmond Olympic Oval that he had an attractive energy that had a story behind it . . . and boy was I right.
Sheldon grew up in Coquitlam as the youngest of eight kids. Of course my natural smart-aleck comment was “Catholic?” Nope, he said. My mom was good looking and my dad was a truck driver!
In some respects I would say that Sheldon’s beginnings reminded me of my own: poor, simple, but filled with love and adventure. This included playing baseball growing up, and since his family lived at the bottom of Burnaby Mountain, biking, hiking, and raiding the gardens at Simon Fraser University too. He also remembered running away with a brother and sister and sleeping in the woods … “until the owls scared us!” Sheldon told me that although his dad left his mom when he was just a toddler, life was pretty good. That is until a ‘bad news guy’ showed up on the scene when he was in grade 5 or 6. His relationship with Sheldon’s mother soon brought everything down, and the ministry came-a-knocking.
Love Conquers All
The good part of a large family is that some of his older siblings were already out on their own, even married with kids. This gave Sheldon options to live in a positive environment with people who would keep him focused on living a productive life. His first choice was one of his oldest sisters, who lived close by in Port Coquitlam with her family. This would mean that he would still be close to his mom, a woman that he still admires to this day. Sheldon described his mom as “a beautiful woman inside and out, who was hard-working, a survivor, with a sense of humour and who loved to have fun.”
Although he is forever grateful to his sister and brother-in-law, the stay in Poco was short-lived; only a year. She and her husband had one child and another on the way. Adjusting was not easy. On top of that, Sheldon found that the kids at school were tough — he was the new kid on the block, and that made it easy to pick on him. However, this stopover in his journey came with a special treat: grade six ski lessons at Grouse Mountain. This would be a game changer for Sheldon. Once he got over being freaked out that he might actually ski right into the ocean coming down the face, he loved it.
Next stop: his eldest sister, as he fondly referred to her as, who lived in Prince George. There he started the beginning of his high school career, grade 8, where he became the first of his siblings to graduate on time. Sheldon jokingly refers to this time as ‘the five years I visited Prince George’. Once a Vancouverite, always a Vancouverite, I guess you would say. However once again, this leg of Sheldon’s journey provided yet another poignant moment: a school road trip to ski Jasper. The life experiences, family bonding and friendships Sheldon gained while in Prince George remains valuable to him today.
Survival Breeds Strength
One of the consistencies I have typically noted in people who grow up poor is a strong work ethic. I suppose this is mostly due to necessity and survival. I would include myself in this category, and this is certainly true of Sheldon. He shared with me that he began working at a young age, starting with a paper route, then his first ‘real’ job at McDonald’s when he was only 13 (he lied – ‘my SIN is in the mail!’). That led to other restaurant industry jobs and the Hudson’s Bay – a company Sheldon’s mom had also worked.
Time To Grow Up
In 1986 Sheldon returned from his five year adventure in Prince George, to work at Expo 86, be closer to his family and begin the next chapter of his life: adulthood. This was the beginning of retail work – the Bay, Bootlegger, and the Gap to name a few. In retail, they liked and rewarded Sheldon’s personality and work ethic. Life was good, although retail is also hard work. Throughout Sheldon took breaks, travelled Asia and Europe, worked on a cruise ship, and even lived in California and New York. He was always looking for opportunities, until about eight years ago when burnout was setting in. Time for a change. He turned in his company car, his phone and his laptop and went on a sabbatical.
Success To Significance
The conclusion that Sheldon came to was that he enjoyed self discovery, awareness and growing. This became more evident as he chose to go back to school for Counselling, and took self awareness courses and workshops. He values the importance of fitness, adventure and mental health. As a little boy he would say that ‘when I grow up, I am going to be an overseas tour guide!’ Sheldon’s present, local version of that is:
- he is a Personal Trainer;
- he teaches group fitness classes including Spinning;
- he is an avid camper; and last but not least,
- he is a Snowshoe Guide at Grouse Mountain. Yep, back to those early beginnings!
As a Snowshoe Guide, Sheldon says it’s the best adventure. You leave Lower Mainland typical winter scene, drive to the North Shore, and GET OUTSIDE. Up there is like no other experience like it, he muses: on top of a mountain, covered in snow. Also, if Sheldon happens to be guiding at night during a full moon, all he can see behind him is a trail of headlamps. Magical, Sheldon says. Up on the mountain the twelve year old boy inside of him comes out; “Yee Hah!” This is what makes life work, makes it worthwhile, and keeps him physically and mentally healthy.
Couch Potato Coefficient
When I asked what the message Sheldon might want to impart to others, his summary was this:
“Life is what we make it. Its easy for anyone to come home after work and fall onto the couch and watch mind numbing tv, which is what I found myself doing for a while. It is also easy to get outside and live the adventures we choose. I decided the latter was more fun and I feel so much stronger physically and aware mentally. I used to try and convince my friends to join me and do something adventurous, mostly to no avail. So finally I began going by myself!
Always be up for a challenge. I rode my bike to Seattle; joined a dragon boat team, I ran 10K in my underwear to support my friend battling cancer; I climbed Stairs, a lot of stairs, for the BC Lung Association, and much more. Today I continue to be the guy that will do pretty much anything because I can.
We have a choice: sit and watch life pass us by, or push through and make life an adventure worth looking back on with a smile knowing we lived it to the fullest.“