We had the good fortune of connecting with Tom Tolbert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tom, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
Consistency. In a world where so many things change from day to day, giving kids a consistent role model is absolutely essential to helping them maintain a good balance in life. My wife and I have tried to show our kids that showing up and being the best of who you are every day is important. It isn’t always flashy or interesting, but having that consistency keeps them grounded to the truths we teach them every day. As a Christian, my chief aim in life is to give glory to God. A lot of times people get a bad concept of Christians in their mind because they encountered someone who didn’t meet the expectations and persona the person portrayed. We try to teach our kids that everyone deserves God’s love and being consistent in that application will help them be the people they need to be.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There’s two sides to my work. I’m a youth pastor and teacher, so I enjoy working with young people who are on the cusp of adulthood. We hear so much about the troubled youth in our country today, but those kids make up such a small percentage of teens. Every day, I get to work with teens who are focused and driven to make the most out of life. When May comes around every year, I get to see kids I’ve worked with for six or seven years step into the race of life and pursue their dreams. I’ve seen them go off to be engineers, doctors, pastors, pilots, business owners, etc. The list goes on and on. Is it always easy? No, but the reward of guiding a young person to find their call in life is immense. I look back on my years in college and seminary and see that they helped me formulate my faith in a way that I can help others, and I’m thankful for every challenge I personally went through so that I can walk next to the young people I serve as they face their unique battles.
Landscape photography is something I entered only in recent years. I’ve always been intrigued by the world, and having traveled to many places in my life, I’ve counted it a privilege to have those memories. One day, I realized my memories were going to fade. I wanted a way to capture those places and moments that would reveal the beauty I saw in each of them. I got an inexpensive camera and started snapping pictures of everything. Eventually, I settled on landscapes. I take photos not only to capture those moments for myself, but to share with others the beauty of creation as I experience it. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned already is to slow down and savor the moment. Whether it happens on a mountainside as the light dances across the crags or in a busy marketplace in another country, taking the time to see the little things that make life happen really sets a moment apart for me. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in these last few years of photography, and I know I have a lot more to learn all of the time, but I can never replace learning to stop and take in a scene.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m an outdoor junkie, so get ready to spend a lot of time breathing in some fresh Colorado air. We’re always going to head to the mountains, but if we’ve got a week to spend it all, I’d go for the southwest part of Colorado with the car packed to the hilt with gear and bikes and then work our way back through the state. Our first day would start off heading to the Great Sand Dunes for a hike in the dune field and some sandboarding on the way back down. Afterwards, we’d head over Wolf Creek Pass and into Pagosa Springs to relax in the hot water springs in town. From there, I’d head to Durango for a ride on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. They’ve got a great idea in getting you to Chicago Basin where you can hike in and climb several 14ers. Once on the train, we’d spend the next day and a half camping and taking in the basin (and probably one of the three 14ers) before heading back to Durango on the train and onto the Strater Hotel for the evening. On day 4, we’d head over to Telluride for a view of the entire area and a walk along its Via Ferrata before packing it in for the night just north of Telluride in some of the greatest scenery in the world, the forests of the San Juan Mountains. The next morning, we’d head up one of the great trails in the area just south of Ridgway, Colorado, before heading up to the Black Canyon, where we’d pitch camp for the night on the rim, just to watch the Milky Way arc across the sky. This national park has some of the best dark sky in the nation, and the park’s location makes for something special. For our last couple of days, we’d head toward Crested Butte through the back way down Kebler Pass. This is definitely where the bikes get broken out and used heavily because Crested Butte has got some of the best bike trails I’ve ever enjoyed. While in town, I’d head to the Brick Oven Pizzeria for a great outdoor lunch setting and the Elk Avenue Prime for our last dinner before closing up the trip.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh boy. I’ve had so many great people that have helped me in my life. Growing up in a military family, we never set roots too deep, but there were many folks who seemed to always intersect my life at the right time. If we’re giving our props to people, I’ve got to give first call to my wife, LaTricia. Everything (and I mean everything) I pursue, she’s always got my back and she’s cheering me on, even when I don’t think I’m making any progress. Even in the hustle and bustle of military life, my parents were always challenging me to push a little harder and take the extra step. If I’ve got one person outside of family, it’s got to be a Carson Middle School teacher from the sixth grade by the name of Mrs. Rose Terrell. She was the coach of our school’s Knowledge Bowl Team and someone who took an interest in me and my abilities, and really encouraged me to push toward excellence in my academics, something that has stuck with me even in my adult life.