Thursday, June 6, 2013

Where There Is Will

I didn't see Greg Campbell get hurt.
I was already caught up in the excitement of the Boston Bruins overtime win over Pittsburgh when the highlights of Campbell's injury were part of the postgame coverage at 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
Campbell had slid forward at the point to block a shot. He took it off the leg and fell in a heap. In the video of the injury, you can hear him scream in agony.
But then Campbell got back up. He couldn't count on a stoppage in play. That wasn't going to happen. In a game in which every mistake or opportunity could lead to the decisive goal, Campbell knew he had no choice but to gut it out. He got back up, tried to play his position, on what was later diagnosed as a broken leg. He even blocked another shot.
As he finished his shift and helped the Bruins kill off the Penguins power play, the Boston fans chanted his name and a wounded Campbell skated off the ice. His season is done.
As amazing as what Campbell did, it doesn't surprise me. Hockey players do that. I know many who would have done the exact same thing.
I recently read a story about my friend Kevin Kaminski. One of the many injuries in his rough and tumble hockey career was taking a slapshot to the side of his face. Two inches higher, it likely would have killed him. Instead, it just demolished that side of his face. When asked about it later, Killer recalled it and said "That one stung a little."
Hockey players can be warriors. They know the price that it takes to succeed in the playoffs. They'll do so willingly. They're playing, competing and sacrificing for something far greater than themselves. It seems very different than any other sports. Current Red Sox players are getting ridiculed because they've missed games because they slept wrong or because their hammy hurts. Campbell broke his leg and kept playing. Now, all of a sudden, Jacoby Ellsbury is well enough to play again, after missing a half dozen games or so to a sore hamstring.
Campbell showed me the true depth of guts and heart and desire. You get hurt. You get back up and fight on.
As I thought about Campbell, I realized the anniversary of Normandy. Talk about having guts and heart.
My Dad wasn't part of the invasion. By a twist of fate, and lack of radio operators at home,  he was held back in the states longer than he preferred. By the time he was sent to Europe, the invasion was over and the war was on its last legs. By the grace of God went he.
Most of what I know of Normandy is through movies and historical documentaries. The mention of it puts me on the beach in Saving Private Ryan and figuring the real thing was hundreds of times more horrifying than that.
I'm not a huge flag waver or a "Support the Troops" kind of person. It isn't that I don't support the troops or believe in the freedom our country offers. All those slogans and flag waving gets a little tiresome amidst their use as propaganda and tools for political causes.
But being awed by Campbell's sacrifice and his display of heart and courage only illuminates such selflessness in the context of Normandy.
I know an injured hockey player and the sacrifices made by brave troops in a time of war can't truly be compared. But the fortitude displayed in both instances is amazing and awe inspiring. And that's my point.It doesn't matter the challenge or the adversity, where there is tremendous will, there's a way to show such heart.
I can't imagine what it was like for Campbell Wednesday night and I can't even fathom what it was like on the beaches of Normandy. I'm not sure I can even fully comprehend how terrifying it was to be there.
But I can appreciate such displays of courage, sacrifice, strength and heart. I can only strive to possess some resemblance of those examples.
I never expect to face such trying examples as that. But I know if I get knocked down or put in a challenging situation, I have proof of how amazing and how strong the heart and will of a human can be.
We should recognize and honor such acts of courage and bravery, whether it is the sacrifices of our soldiers or a hockey player competing and playing as selflessly as Campbell did. It took tremendous heart and guts and a will we all should yearn for.
We should remember these examples and hope to live such heart and selflessness as they did. We learn from the past so as to not repeat the mistakes. We can also learn from the past when heroes live, die and hurt because of their fortitude and determination amidst fear and the unknown.
I know I'm talking hockey and hell here. They're truly separate. But I'm simply looking at both events and marvelling at the true heroic nature involved, where weakness and fear were overpowered by an amazing will, a determination, a heart and a strength.
The daily challenges I face are meager in comparison but can be made to feel so large and overwhelming. But I can be a warrior in my own small way. I can strive to live for something greater than my own gain. Others have shown the amazing power of selflessness, sacrifice and strength. And it simply comes from a determined and undeterred heart and a desire to persevere. With that kind of will, there's always a way.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Growing Up

As my foot left the solid security of one rock, it set foot on another. The other foot followed, landing me squarely on top of a large rectangular boulder. Then the rock moved.
The rock always moves. It seems as though every time I walk around the point in my cove in Owls Head, when I come upon this series of rocks strewn about the beach, I always seem to find this particular rock. I step on it. It moves. I suddenly remember that it moves. Then I forget, at least until next time.
As I continued my walk around the point, I noticed similar occurrences. This rock and that rock were familiar. It didn’t take me long to realize that many of these granite rocks large and small are the same ones I step upon whenever I take this walk around the point.
Sometimes, it is the easiest way to navigate my way around the rock bound shoreline. But sometimes I wander  aimlessly, with another blog, a chapter of my book or solving life’s challenges stirring in my mind, yet I always seem to go the same way and step upon many of the same rocks, most of which don’t move.
This made me think about what a creature of habit I truly am. I certainly could have admitted to that before my recent jaunt along the Maine coast. I’m very much a creature of habit. I do things the same way all the time, either because they’re the right way  (at least in my mind) or it is the way I’m comfortable. The former is certainly acceptable but the latter is not. I want to do things the right way but I don’t want to do things just because I’m comfortable. People can do the same thing over and over again for years and never really gain anything.
That’s not how I want to be. Of course, that’s exactly what I have been at times in my life. It reminds me of a sports psychology class I sat in once. The prof used a clock to demonstrate how one either progresses or sticks themselves in a rut.
You set your goal (whatever that thing is that makes you happy) for straight up 12. Then the clock ticks. You hit an obstacle at 3. Maybe you’re stuck there because you can’t get past that hurdle. The clock reverts back and you begin again but never get past that stumbling block at 3.  I know many people like that. They’ve faced that challenge and never overcome it. They’ve been stuck at 3 ever since. Some get past that hurdle but hit another barrier at 6. Then maybe they get snagged at 9. I’d say I might be somewhere between 6 and 9 right now. Hopefully, if I get over the next hurdle, I’m home free.
Life is a constant progression, a moving forward. But it is often too easy to get stuck in one place. We get accustomed to doing the same thing and never learning, never growing and never making progress. Some of my greatest moments in life have come after the hardest of times. I wouldn’t want to live those moments over again, but I’m better for that challenge and learning from them.
My knee injury gave me a determination and  mission that made me stronger as well as healthier. My father’s death and speaking at his memorial service gave me confidence and a fearlessness about  myself.
But I don’t want life’s hardships to make me better. A doctor’s bill and physical therapy shouldn’t be what moves me out of my rut. As I was told recently, pain shouldn’t be the pathway to my heart – but it often is. I want to learn and grow no matter what. It is what I think we all should aspire toward.
My father was like that. It was my brother’s own speech at his service that helped me see that. My father always strove to learn more and educate himself and build his knowledge, whether it was through reading or studying or watching the history channel. He never stopped feeding his mind and subsequently fueling his heart and soul.
My grandfather was somewhat similar. I realized recently that I’m about the same age now as he was when his second wife (my grandmother) died from tuberculosis. My Dad was just 10 at the time. My grandfather dealt with that loss and was always an example of devotion to his boys and a faithful servant to his God, despite the losses of his life.
Another person I admire and have learned from is George Harrison. He’s my favorite Beatle, because he’s the soul of that band. He was a balance of Paul’s sappy love songs and John’s edgy rebellion. The person it seemed that both Paul and John stroved to be was somebody like George. And it didn’t take him long to realize that life was far more than just the fame, success and money that came with being a Beatle. George devoted  his life to seek a higher calling and live a deeper meaning.
That’s what I want in my life. I want to keep that search going and continue learning and growing into the person I am meant to be.
I met a man who was a professor of the Gaelic language last fall. When I introduced myself, he raved about my name and how Kevin in Gaelic means something blessed and special. I can’t remember his exact words but the name itself spoke to a higher calling. When he left, the last thing he said to me was to "live up" to my name. Those words have stuck with me ever since.
My goals in life haven’t changed much. I want a job that makes me happy and makes a difference. I want to find a love of my life to share everything with, unconditional and devoted. I want to make a difference. I want to be happy.  I want to live righteously with honesty and integrity. I want to think deeper and love stronger and live larger.
I know how hard all that can be. I’ve failed at it at times in my life. I’ve given up on some of it at times in my life. But I’ve kept striving and kept learning and kept trying to understand what it takes to get where I want to go. Sometimes I’ve needed a push.
I recently read a sermon by Harvard’s Peter Gomes. He talked about farmers preparing for the unknown and living their faith. They work diligently on the things that they need to do around their farm, doing so amidst the faith and trust that their due diligence will be rewarded in their harvest.
It’s kind of like basketball games being won in practice beforehand. It is the hard work and lessons learned in those moments of preparation that bring out the best in the results.
Now I don’t know exactly what life has in store for me. Frankly, that drives me crazy. I’m a bit of a plotter and planner. I hate not knowing.  It feeds my fear and tries my patience. But I also know that God isn’t done with me yet.  If I do the work, God has a plan and a reward for me. That’s the agreement we have. I’m just trying to live up to my end.
So I move forward. I cultivate like the farmer. I try to seek new paths. I hope to learn new lessons. I hope to grow and find the purpose fitting of my name. And someday, I just might land on a rock that doesn’t move.