04 November 2010

This I Believe

I had the opportunity to hear Dan Gediman speak last night at Aquinas College. Mr. Gediman is the executive director/producer of This I Believe, a non-profit organization that collects and shares people's core belief essays. You've probably heard at least one of the essays on the series that was a mainstay on NPR's All Things Considered for many years and currently can be heard via podcast, on the Bob Edwards Show (either on satellite or public radio), and right on ThisIBelieve.org.

The event at Aquinas began with a short introduction by Aquinas president. He introduced five students who then read their This I Believe essays. One was funny, an ode to the Aquinas College cafeteria. Another was on silence. Another on cancer. Another on taking risks. The final speaker read his essay about prevailing against all odds. His essay, in particular, touched me the most because it included a story about running. He was born too early, weighing just over two pounds. Both he and his mother were not expected to make it. They both did, against all odds. He's lived his life with cerebral palsy, which affects the muscle movement on one side of his body and causes him to walk with a limp.

He shared about being teased in middle school for being different, but then spoke about how things changed in high school. He was encouraged to run on the cross country team. The team embraced him. Even though he admitted to never winning a race, basically finishing long after his teammates and runners from the other teams, he kept running. Against all odds.

As he was finishing the final race of his high school running career, his teammates doubled back to run the last quarter mile with him. When awards were given out to the winners, they had a special award to share with him. All his teammates took off their warm ups to reveal t-shirts printed with his name - they decided to change the name of the race to bear his name from then on, honoring his perseverance.

He's not running now, but as a runner I can only imagine that the experience of pushing himself, connecting with his teammates and competing against all odds is something that will stay with him the rest of his life. His story brought tears to my eyes.

After hearing the students read their essays and hearing Mr. Gediman speak about the origins of This I Believe, I've been thinking about writing my own essay. I'm still mulling it over, but don't be surprised one day if you read mine here or hear it one day on This I Believe.

What do you believe?

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