Editor’s note: Each May, Hometown Heroes features a South Whidbey High School senior chosen by the schools. This year the honor goes to Ammon Christensen because of his volunteerism, mentoring and being a positive role model for peers and adults alike.
Ammon Christensen embraces various perspectives and enjoys talking with people that have different views than his. “I can’t figure why some reject or dismiss someone else for having an opinion other than theirs. It’s sad when I hear, for example, political parties arguing about differing beliefs. No one seems to want to listen and understand the other’s view.”
Shane Michard, a senior at South Whidbey High School, says Christensen and he see most things in life differently, however, “Ammon is a terrific role model and asset to the school and this community. We have our differences, we have our own opinions, but our clashing opinions are what keep our close friendship interesting. We actually have real conversations about meaningful things and respect each other’s differing thoughts.”
Upon arriving at the Christensen home to interview Ammon, the door flings open at the first knock. “Hi! I am so glad to meet you, please come on in,” Christensen says.
He walks you through his family’s home introducing the visitor to everyone, including the family dog Brandie, taking you to a comfortable private setting in their typical residential home for conversation.
Contemplating what he thinks of people disagreeing with his beliefs, he looks out the window, stroking Brandie, leans forward and pauses before commenting, “It’s fine, in fact it’s interesting, as long as we both respect one another’s different views. People can share core values and still disagree on all kinds of matters. For instance I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called Mormons), one of my best friends is an atheist.” He smiles and adds, “It’s ironic since his middle name is ‘Christian.’ Yet it’s our differences I think that make us close friends. I don’t understand why some will write off a person just because they believe or think differently.”
He mentions Democrats and Republicans as an example. Christensen says “Lord of the Rings” addresses this very well. “I admit I am a ‘Lord of the Rings’ nerd, but the fellowship within shows how we can all unite around a goal for good. It shows differences yet they can work together if they respect one another’s opinions and beliefs. I think Congress and political parties could gain from this book series.”
Julie Christensen, Ammon’s mom, said, “He has always been a compassionate sweet, non-judgmental young man. He accepts everyone as they are and can find the good in all people. You will never find him gossiping or saying hurtful things to anyone. He has had extreme challenges that can be debilitating for him. As the saying goes, we all have huge mountains to climb. We can’t go through them, we can’t go around them, we have to go over them. Ammon climbs his mountains daily.”
Christensen says in the eighth grade, when his family moved here from Germany, he started feeling such powerful anxiety that he couldn’t even go to class.
“My mom would drive me to school, only to have to drive me right back home again. I thought everyone was talking about me.
I was so depressed I barely could function; it was like living in a deep dark pit. Finally I found some help through medication and therapy. They diagnosed it as G.A.D. (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) a mental illness. It’s sad but mental illnesses have a stigma attached to them. They are no different than a broken leg or impaired heart. I am able to manage my anxiety with coping skills now, but I have to stay on top of it. It’s an everyday battle, but I know I’m not the only one, we all have daily battles.”
For some he says, it’s finding their mentors in life.
Christensen says he knows how fortunate he is to have family mentors and such a loving, supportive family. “I know that for too many this is their battle in life, having to go outside their home to find a positive role model. I know they are out there, as I also have outside role models such as coaches, teachers and church leaders. My advice for those that aren’t as lucky as I am is to not define yourself by the limitations your family may have, but rather find that personal mentor to build you up. And don’t give up until you find the right role model for you. If you can’t find one in person, find them in books, because everyone needs inspirational examples in their lives.”
Jeff Hodson, the high school baseball coach, writes, “Ammon is an encourager, a unifier, and generous with a servant attitude. I have been one of his coaches for three years, and watched him recognize when others need help and brings them back into the fold. I have seen him push and encourage them to stick with it, or helping someone with an encouraging chat. More than once I’ve paused and said to myself, ‘I’ve just learned something else from this kid.’” Hodson says a portion of Christensen’s servant attitude comes from his family and faith.
“My sister and mom are very emotional and most people don’t know how emotional and sensitive I can be as well,” Christensen said. “Another thing that my family has given me is our upbringing in the church and exposure to faith. My faith is the most important thing to me, through which I’ve learned to work hard, to be self-reliant and to serve our community, country and world.
“Our church teaches values that seem restrictive to some but actually these values guide my daily decisions and make my life free of other problems and negative consequences. Not everyone understands the Mormon faith, and I know some have rejected me when they learn I am a Mormon. I don’t understand that, because I don’t judge people on the basis of their religion, unbelief or political views. It’s especially sad that we fight over different religions, aren’t most of us seeking the same thing in life? Isn’t this the way we learn and grow?