Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pep Talk: "Stronger Strands"

“Well,” cracked my razor-sharp almost-octogenarian mother in our regular Friday morning phone chat, “Better late than never.”

Touché, dear Patsy Sue. I was sharing the news of learning to box. Yep. At 56, I’m going to finally take Muhammad Ali’s advice and “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” 

I can remember meeting Ali back in 1986. It was one of the first stories I did upon arrival in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas to work at KGBT-TV as a sports guy. I’ll never forget the moment. The man had charisma. Young children, who had no idea of the boxing icon’s story, flocked around the three-time heavyweight champion. This was a time when the Louisville, Kentucky native was in the early stages of his battle with Parkinson’s. Today, the disease has robbed the once-loquacious pugilist of his ability to speak. Enough about Ali.

Anyway, Mom is delivering good-natured grief about learning to box at my age. I couldn’t care less. The reason has nothing to do with waking up one day and realizing, “I wanna learn to box.” It’s the byproduct of trying to better serve the men at Denver Rescue Mission. In working with the men for more than a year it’s become apparent, at least to me, that while good-intentioned folks pour energy into empowering these guys to grow stronger in mind and spirit, we were missing the critical third phase. We are doing nothing to help them grow stronger physically.

It’s such a critical piece to bouncing back from whatever ails us, right? I can remember exactly when that truth bore deep into my marrow. It was a long time ago. Dumped by a long-time girlfriend, realizing my athletic career was history and having no clue what the future held, I was bummed out. Life was not progressing as planned, that’s for sure. I know you all can relate. A buddy who ran for the Mizzou Tiger track team encouraged me to join him and other middle-distance runners for workouts. It was an epiphany: a good workout kicked in the endorphins and gave hope to prevail against what ails!

It’s what we’re bringing to the table for men in recovery. Victory Productions has been encouraging these guys to try a different path when it comes to mind and spirit but, until this point, was not addressing the fitness aspect.

That has changed, thanks to the wonderful folks at Phoenix Multi Sport. A gym just three blocks from the Denver Rescue Mission. This past Wednesday we had our first workout. We boxed. Thanks goodness, not one another. We wrapped hands, punched heavy bags, speed bags, hand paddles, jumped roped, threw around medicine balls and did calisthenics. We had a blast. A team of men working toward a common goal of growing stronger in body, mind, and spirit. The circle had been closed.

This is the first phase of the A Stronger Cord program Victory has created to help fight Denver’s homeless issue. It’s just a slice of the pie but the goal is to work with other key stakeholders in engaging the portion of Denver’s homeless population - like many of the guys at Denver Rescue Mission - who are not suffering from mental illness as much as mental anguish. Life has not gone according to plan. As I like to say whenever blessed to give a live Pep Talk presentation about overcoming adversity, “They’ve been poked in the eye.” Their self-esteem is low. So too is their hope.

Phase One works on hope. Phase Two of ASC works on rebuilding their networks. Quite often, these guys have been booted from their homes by loved ones who have finally reached their limits. These guys are in exile. Through the Associate Program, we help them rebuild that network by exercising and connecting with men of integrity who desire to serve. One of the main objectives in this phase is to help participants become more aware of their gifts and how to utilize them in unique and excellent ways.

Finally, Phase Three takes advantage of the growth seen through successful completion of the first two phases and seeks employment opportunities for participants. The ultimate goal is to re-integrate these men into their families, the workforce and our communities, transformed and eager to assume leadership of their lives. Men stronger in mind, body and spirit. 

King Solomon is considered one of the wisest dudes to ever walk the Earth. He once wrote, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, but a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

Three stronger strands. Mind. Body. Spirit. Whether we’re talking this program or our own personal lives, rarely a bad thing. Strengthen the strands whenever you can. This way, when the storms of life batter our world - they do - we will not easily be broken!

We are looking for fitness-minded men to join this effort. Is that you? Someone you know? If so, let me know!

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