Jill Kinmont Boothe
I just completed a three-week series at my church called “Walking With God in the Desert”. Today I finished the series by talking about “The Gift of Pain”. My point in this message is that we all suffer with something…some more than others. Pain teaches us things nothing else can. The lessons we learn are “gifts” to share with others in pain. This story about Jill Kinmont Boothe is a good example of someone who did just that.
Jill Kinmont Boothe
Time magazine has an obituary section where they mention famous people who died recently. It’s interesting to read because I’ve never heard about most of the people they mention since they were famous 40 or 50 years ago.
Last month a woman died whom I had never heard of before. Her name was Jill Kinmont Boothe. She was the national slalom skiing champion back in 1955. She went to the Olympics and was featured on the front page of Sports Illustrated that year. But during one of her pre-Olympic races she lost control, struck a spectator and crashed into a tree. Another article by the LA Times gave more detail. It said…
When she finally came to a stop, she couldn’t feel anything. This must be death, she later recalled thinking. Her neck broken, she was paralyzed below her shoulders, her promising career as a skier over at 18. Los Angeles Times
Jill was determined to walk and ski again. But she never did. Jill spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. But that never stopped her. She went on to get two degrees and a teaching certificate although no one would hire her. Finally a school district in Beverly Hills hired her where she taught remedial reading for a several years.
If that wasn’t enough heart-break for one person, Jill had a number of other losses in her life. Her teenage boyfriend was killed in an avalanche. A second love died when his small plane crashed in Donner Lake. And a UCLA friend who mentored her succumbed to an undiagnosed disease. When asked how she dealt with so much loss she said…
“To get mad, to scream and holler, to tell the world — that doesn’t get you anywhere,” “You sort of look for what’s good that’s left, I guess.”
Her husband commented about her saying…
“I think the thing that impressed me most the first time I met her was that after a few minutes you forgot all about her being in a wheelchair,” “She obviously isn’t preoccupied by it and pretty soon you’re not either.”
I’m so impressed with her resilience…her ability to bounce back from a series of tragedies and overcome them. Not only did she survive but she gave her life to help others. As noted in the LAObserved link below it tells us that…
They know her well in the Eastern Sierra communities along U.S. highway 395. She was a public school teacher for 32 years, including 21 years with special ed kids at Bishop Union Elementary School. When a new high school opened in Bishop, the students voted to name it the Jill Kinmont Boothe School. She oversaw the Indian Education Fund, which provides scholarships to local Native American youth, and had a local following as a painter. “My way of wanting to do all this stuff probably stems a lot from my competitive endeavors because I like to focus on something,” Jill Kinmont Boothe told Jerry Crowe of the LA Times last year. “I’m sort of determined.”
She was “sort of” determined. I don’t know where she was at spiritually but I believe that God has hardwired resilience into us. Whether we choose to recognize him or not, we have the ability to bounce back against incredible odds. It takes people like Jill to show us our potential.
Sadly, many of us never tap into the potential that is ours…not just to rebound but to use our hardship to help others. That’s what I mean by the “Gift of Pain”. There are things that we learn only through pain. But once we learn them we become a wealth of wisdom for others.
As you look at the pain of your past you have two choices; one, to lament the tragedy and limp through life as a victim. The other choice is to work through these natural feelings and then use the pain to help others. That’s what Jill Kinmont Boothe did. I hope you’ll find the courage to do the same.
Join me for part two as I reflect in more detail about the “Gift of Pain”.
- Disabled ski champ Boothe dies at 75 (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- Jill Kinmont Boothe, L.A.-born ski racer was 75* (laobserved.com)