Mission Statement - Fairfield Strength:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Mission Statement - Fairfield Strength:
To cultivate growth opportunities for children of all ages and abilities, bringing together the learned and the learning, in a spirit of helpfulness and respect, to improve our health and wellness, using fitness and sport as a medium to teach life lessons.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
The start of this New Year also marks the midway of our second year of programming at Fairfield Strength. New Year brings opportunity, but also reflection. A time to remember and give thanks for all those who have helped shape our program. We are forever grateful for their contribution to not just our program, but all the lives you have touched. Our greatest joy's, and also our greatest strength, lies in our diversity. During a relatively short existence our rooms have been graced with athletes ranging from world class to special needs and everyone in between. From old to young, from challenged to challenging, students from Fairfield Woods, Tomlinson, Unquowa Ludlow MS, Fairfield Warde, and Fairfield Ludlow worked with university students from Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac, Southern, West Conn, UConn, , NCC, HCC, Mitchell College, La Salle University, SUNY ESF, Fairfield University, and Yale. Our students and trainers range from Fairfield - born and bred to Brazil, Serbia, Sweden, England, Germany, Bolivia, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Congo, Zambia, Jamaica, Trumbull, Hamden, New Haven, Weston, Easton, Bridgeport, Long Island, Rhode Island, New York and even New Jersey. Our program participants create a tapestry of extraordinary brilliance that has been a very special privilege to coordinate.
It is said that our lives are like stones cast on still waters: creating ripples which touch shores we may never see. What we have seen is many tiny miracles that occur as the result of people helping people. In a world of spiritual turpitude doing the right thing is not always a given. That said, the opportunity to participate in a simple but productive program that changes lives on many levels is truly a wondrous thing. This is something we cannot keep without giving it away. In that vein – I would like to share an email forwarded to me by my wife – and sent with the header – "Two Choices" and ended with the following: "A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them. You now have two choices: 1. Delete or 2. Forward."
I chose a slightly different option – to post it on our blog. The spirit of the piece is consistent with all that is good about our program. Our peer trainer model and the consistently excellent decisions made by our young trainers who have grown so much during our time together are very similar to the actions taken by the boys on the baseball team mentioned in the story. Sometimes we are the last to see that which others are so very proud of. This is as it should be. My take on the email and the "two decisions" is this – living well requires more than forwarding emails – it requires acting as if and becoming the change you wish to see – so listen with your eyes and hear with your heart. Most decent acts do not require great courage – they require great compassion. Or as Chevy Chase put it so well in the movie Caddy Shack: "See, see your future, be, be your future." Enjoy the story:
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet, my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?'
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but, as a father, I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps. I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they (1) put up one of their best hitters for the win or (2) let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out20of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first! Run to first!'
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!'
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third! Shay, run to third!'
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team!
'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.'
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
AND NOW A LITTLE FOOT NOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate .
The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.
If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the 'natural order of things.'
So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?
A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.