If I could build my own Mount Rushmore, there would be little doubt about the four faces I would have carved into the edifice.
Personal Courage and Strength
The first would be my dad. Howard Thompson was born with polio and spent two of his childhood years in a children’s hospital having multiple surgeries and learning to live and walk without a hip joint. In the 1930s, it was not as simple as getting a new one. His courage and strength were hard for me to see while I was growing up under his constant eye, but as I have had to summon these things in life many times since his death in 1988, I know how deep his inner resources were. And he left me some of that.
Another face on my Rushmore would be a choir director I met in 2004 when I joined the Turtle Creek Chorale. Tim Seelig, who now is the artistic director for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, was a great source of moral encouragement who insisted on artistic perfection. His challenging me to get out of my shell and perform a comedy skit in our sold-out holiday concerts pushed me to an edge of daring and courage that I had not experienced.
"The Ballarinos," the aforementioned comedy skit, consisted of the biggest guys in the chorale. We dressed as ballerinas with tutus, ballet slippers, and the whole nine yards, and we danced to the tune of Tchaikowsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairies,” from The Nutcracker. I should mention the tune was played on tubas, which, of course, emphasized our awkwardness as fat guys trying to dance like ballerinas. These performances were bring-the-house-down moments, and it is one of my favorite memories. Seelig is on my Rushmore because no one has pushed me to the creative edge as far as he did.
The other two faces on my Rushmore would be two specific coaches. I was an athlete from the first time I had the opportunity to join a competitive team of any sort, and coaches were like fathers to me.