WIND BENEATH MY WINGS
by Bob Beamon with Perry Zane Binder
Sometimes when I get home after a particularly hectic day, I'll put on some jazz and take out my African drums to strike up a beat. As I close my eyes, my body succumbs to the rhythmic vibrations of pounding drums. With the stress of the day draining off, I kick back and try to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going. Sometimes my mind wanders back to Mexico City and 1968; but mostly, I think about today and tomorrow, one day at a time.
As a kid growing up in Jamaica, Queens, I could barely find a positive role model in the neighborhood. The money and fancy clothes flashed around by local drug dealers and pimps were tempting and offered a quick way out. The message of sacrifice offered by parents, guardians and teachers who toil anonymously in the trenches was brushed aside to satisfy the appetite of the moment. When a young man today wonders if he'll live to see his twenty-fifth birthday and our babies are having babies, it's easy to identify such an overwhelming sense of resignation on our nation's street corners.
Obviously, each kid is not going to cross the finish line first, but as Baron Pierre de Courbertin of France (the inspiration behind holding the modern Olympic Games) stated: "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part; the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. "
Ultimately, the lesson for our youth to gather is that it is not imperative to take home the gold medal. Champions are not made on the field or track; champions are made according to your accomplishments and abilities in every day life situations. The same tools that I used to succeed athletically can be applied to succeeding personally. Just as practice in long jumping made me successful, practice in whatever your profession or hobby may be will make you equally as successful. A sound work ethic will offer a framework for a youth's self-worth and the impetus to stand up and scream: "I am a Champion!"
The great news is that high profile athletes are anxious to offer their time to find solutions. From Nate Archibald in Harlem to James Worthy in Compton and everyone in between the two coasts, athletes are coming to the rescue of young people in vast numbers. The simple point is that we have the ability to attract a kid's attention. Let's use our gifts constructively.