Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

That’s the motto of the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, as announced by legendary basketball coach Jimmy Valvano in his famous ESPY Awards speech in 1993 (he died of cancer soon after the speech).

I came upon that phrase — don’t give up, don’t ever give up — during my trip to Alaska last week. I spent all last week on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska where I hiked, saw some glaciers, fished for halibut, watched bears fish for salmon, and generally continued my travel trend of enjoying nature / the outdoors and avoiding cities.

Virtually everywhere in Alaska there was a sign reminding us mortal humans that we were in “bear country.” The signs presented various scenarios. If you happen upon a black bear, play dead. A brown bear, act big and fierce. If you happen upon a predatory bear of either color, and it attacks, fight back. Fight back, the sign said, and don’t give up.

In Homer, Alaska, at the Pratt Museum, there was an exhibit on sailors who died at sea. It showed how long the average person can live if alone at sea. For example, one who treads water quickly lives longer than one who swims slowly. In any scenario, the will to stay alive and not fall asleep / go unconscious can make the difference between life and death.

My last sighting of this phrase is from a hotel room in Topeka, Kansas, where I was the week before last. There was a placard about what to do if there is a fire. It had the evacuation route and then some instructions if the fire were right outside my door. Put a wet towel under the door, it said, call for help, and don’t give up.

It might seem funny to have to remind people not to give up. But I definitely believe it. Whether in normal situations or dire ones, people can underestimate their own willpower.

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