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Always Remember the Lessons of Childhood
I started playing ball at Rice a year before Larry. My last game experience was 6’3″ 245 lbs; Larry was listed at 5’11” and 210 lbs. We are both quick and reckless in the field, intelligent, gifted, well grounded, and strong. One of us made it pro, the other didn’t.
When I was 4 years old, my brother got a new Huffy for his birthday. I’m still on an old bike with training wheels. Of course, I want a new bike like my brother. My parents live pay to pay and don’t want to buy a new bike for a 4 year old who doesn’t know how to ride. But I begged and begged. Not used. However, the silver lining to the “no” that I kept was when my father said, “Son, when you can ride a bike without training wheels, I’ll buy you a new bike.”
Last week while on vacation, I spent a day, like most weekends, at the pool in my backyard. I have 4 children ages 12 (Austin), 10 (Hunter), 4 (Taylor), and 2 to 3 (Skylar). Now, Austin and Hunter can swim and stay safe in the pool. Taylor has recently trained and is confident and capable in the water. We have to keep an eye on him just to make sure he doesn’t get himself into a jam. Skylar, on the other hand, can swim short distances of 10-15 feet. It is comfortable near the shore of the lake.
Throughout the week, I like to challenge the kids to underwater activities such as sitting on the bottom, standing on their longest arms, walking on their arms, or simply, whoever comes Voluntarily holding their breath for the longest time. I saw Skylar many times hanging from the edge and dunking himself underwater only to come up quickly after catching his breath. My wife, Tracy, told me, “Look at him, he’s tested his limits.” I agree with pleasure. As the day goes by, I see that he has left the wall now, but it will be fast when he falls.
Then, on Thursday, I sat in the hot tub enjoying a laugh and a splash with my wife, Tracy. Not worried, I picked up and sold on Skylar as she continued her plunge, wall release, repeat and wall hold. So he continued. Suddenly, it burst into the water with enough force to grab 100% of my heart. He smiled so hard and couldn’t wait to catch his breath until the water ran down his face. As he pulled his smiling face from the pool of water that was pouring out of his head, he said, “DADDY! I touched the bottom all by myself!”
Of course I admire him for his accomplishment considering what he has come up with recently with his confidence and ability in the water. He continued. Then, I already know. This boy has a purpose! He is very happy because he has achieved a goal! I turned to Tracy and asked, “when do we stop growing up?” My wife is an extraordinary person in knowing what she wants and getting it. He answered simply, that we did not. I said, “No, people are old, why don’t they grow up?” He let me think about that.
For the next few days, I thought about the fact that we never stop growing and learning. It is all about pain and happiness no matter how young or old we are. Either we have enough pain to stop what we are doing or we have enough enthusiasm to continue. Illness, however, can protect us from risk. Trying the unknown will cause pain, why should we try that? A small child does not have that option. HIS TIME HAS BEEN A LIFETIME! It is in their genetic make-up or they will live forever in that state. Why should we, as adults, stunt our growth by not trying the unknown?
Last week, I learned that my wife is superwoman. I had some very itchy kids before I bought them. had a meal. Also, my 2 year old opened every game available in the Soward house (while I was sleeping) and scattered it all over the 2 rooms. And, let me say that he himself also opened the Smithsonian Institute Crystal Growing Chemistry Set from my 10-year-old age and managed to spread the powder throughout my study, bedroom, home, and 2 bedrooms. Trust me, he experienced a little pain so he wouldn’t do that again!
As I look back over the week and think about Skylar’s accomplishments in the pool and home science, it makes me realize that this is just the process God planned. This is how we grow. Sometimes we are praised for trying something new. And there are times when we get hurt. No matter the day, we are always growing and learning. The difference between champions and losers is that champions use lessons learned.
A few years ago, I was talking to my old friend Larry after a UT-Rice football game. Larry is now playing for the New England Patriots and is taking the weekend off. He has 3 Superbowl rings. He has been playing pro ball since 1996. He has not been successful after his college career. However, he was invited to the training camp for Jimmy Johnson’s Miami Dolphins. This is Jimmy Johnson’s first year coaching the Dolphins and is well known for his strict standards. After the first pre-season game, Coach Johnson told reporters that only 2 people have made the team so far, “Dan Marino and Larry Izzo.” You see, Larry was on the football team back, didn’t know how good he was, and got hit by an opponent running from him all the way. He stood up and hit the second opponent. In the world of football and all its skills and sports, only the spirit of a warrior and the heart of a champion can achieve this.
Larry warned me in our conversation that “as long as I didn’t get into the doghouse (with a former college coach)” I could. Knowing what he knows now, I have the ability and vulnerability to be in order to be, at least, a special group. It is bitter-sweet. Part of me wishes he would have said I wasn’t capable enough to do it instead of blaming him on the “doghouse.” You see, I put myself in the “doghouse.” At times I have pledged my life to be what I call a “deadly hero.” However, no one saw me as a hero. I drank alcohol and quit my job because I was afraid of setting and missing the target. I’m no longer the 4-year-old boy who said, “When you ride a bike, I’ll marry you,” and learned to ride a bike without training wheels in less than a week. I’m the guy with the skills, that people with the heart want them to be able to. A few years ago, before Larry and I spoke I realized this and turned my life around. It took me 12 years to wake up and find another competitor to beat. Every now and then, I am reminded to have the heart of a warrior and the heart of a champion. This week I have returned from 2 years.
Like Larry, Skylar hit one last goal on Thursday by touching the bottom of the pool and by Sunday was sitting at the bottom of the pool as I looked at him with a smile on my face. I’m underwater because he just beat his second opponent. .
We face challenges every day. That is Satan’s plan. God’s plan is for us to stand up, stand up, knock them down, and knock them down again. You have a purpose and that is the best thing in everything you do. In faith, family and work, do the best you can. There are opponents in your way. Find out who or what is in your way and knock them down at once. But first, knock the opponent in your mirror called Fear. If you don’t take that out, the rest will just run away from you. Stand up and believe the words written and repeated more than anything else throughout the best selling book ever written, “Don’t Be Afraid.”
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