Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Would You Do? Accepting the Things We Don't Control

It was supposed to be one of the happiest weeks of his life. After years of hard work and sacrifice, Isaiah Austin was about to live the dream of any boy who has ever dribbled a basketball, or practiced his jump-shot over and over for hours on end. At 7’ 1”, Austin was a star in the making. He was sure to be a first-round pick in tonight’s NBA draft, with the only question being which team would pick him. Then, diagnosed with Marfan’s Syndrome, a disease that makes it impossible for him to play basketball again, his dream went up in smoke.

What would you do? How would you react if suddenly the whole trajectory of your life changed? If the neat ordered world in which you lived, suddenly changed without any warning? Would you be bitter? Go with your anger, pain and frustration to the dark place it wants to take you? Could you adjust? Recognize that you now have a chance to do something different? Accept that somewhere deep, buried in your hurt and disappointment, lies the opportunity to recreate yourself?

Imagine if the disease had not been found. Instead of being symbolically drafted by the NBA, in a touchingand classy move, as he was tonight, he would have actually been drafted by a team. He would have signed a contract that would have  instantly made him a millionaire. Then, at some unknown juncture, during a hard practice or during a game, the unthinkable would have happened.

Could you see the change as a gift, or, at least, as the impetus to look inside and figure out who you really are? Would you be able to recognize that it’s possible to get through the upheaval and end up in a different place, maybe even a better place? Would you dare to dream again? Could you?

Lets imagine a future scenario. Austin walks into an auditorium, packed with some of the best high-school basketball prospects in the country. Before he begins to speak, highlights of his basketball career show on the video screen behind him. The kids grow quiet as they realize that this guy in front of them was pretty good. As the screen grows dark, Austin tells his story. About the easy classes he took, and the way his teachers and other adults looked the other way, to “help” him. About all the attention he got. About all the people who wanted to be his friend, girls who saw him as their ticket to the big-time. About how almost all of them went away, as soon as it became clear that he would not be a basketball star in the NBA. Suddenly, a second video starts to show. In it, Austin’s wedding is shown, as is his graduation from Baylor with a degree in counseling, or maybe, pre-med. The people surrounding him in the video seem happy for him, as if they are truly sharing in his success. As the screen again fades to black, he again begins to talk. He tells the prospects his story. He shares the pain he felt when his dream went away. He tells of the tears, and the many nights of lying awake feeling sorry for himself. He also tells them how, one day, he decided he had enough with the self-pity. How he decided to go back to school and get a real degree. He tells of the true friends he made, who weren’t seeing him as anything other than a friend. He tells of meeting his now wife, who wasn’t even a basketball fan. He shares the fact that he wants to help others avoid the pain that he went through. He warns the boys to open their eyes and look inside, and recognize that for most of them, they have to figure out what they will do with a life that will not involve playing in the NBA.

Could you use your pain to help others? How good would you feel knowing that you helped even one person avoid the pitfalls you experienced, along with all the hurt that came with it? Do you have it in you to accept that you are not fully in control? Do you have it in you to change? What would you do?

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