It Takes A Village…
There’s an old saying that states “It takes a village to raise a child.” I agree. I’m not at all implying that I need to hand over all responsibility, authority and care of my child to the village by no means. On the contrary, I believe that the community or common unity of the people who are my support system will contribute to the richness and fullness of my daughter’s upbringing. What got me thinking of this was that I read a Daily Prompt last week about naming a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for better or worse. I was too busy to write that day but I wanted to share. Anyhow, that got me thinking about the different teachers that have impacted my life in a positive manner.
The first one that always comes to mind when I’m asked about teachers in my life is Coach Felix. He was my physical education coach in fourth grade. I don’t know that he will ever know the impact he had on me. He took the time to coach me but more than that he taught me something that I have used in my life since then. He taught me that I could overcome much if I just put my mind to it, in spite of the odds that may come against me. How so? You see as a kid, I had childhood asthma and with asthma comes being physically limited to certain activities because overexertion could trigger an asthma attack. When I started Coach Felix’s class, I showed up on the first day with a note saying that I couldn’t run. Coach Felix took that note as a personal challenge. Instead of accepting what the piece of paper said about my physical condition, he set out to condition my mind and body to build endurance. The first time that I set out to walk the track, halfway through I started having an asthma attack. Coach Felix told me to stop and rest. Once I was okay, he told me to walk it off. I finished out my lap. This continued until I could finish two, then four! Four laps around the track was equal to one mile so I was elated the first time I was able to accomplish this without an asthma attack. Next, he had me run one lap and walk the rest and he continued with patience and many encouraging words to coach me through. Soon enough, I was able to run a full mile without stopping! Then two miles.
One day Coach Felix approached me and asked me if I would be interested in running my first road race. It would be two miles. He told me how he knew that I could do it and how he was going to be running this race too. Except, this was my time to run the race on my own. He would meet me at the finish line. I was so encouraged that he believed in me that I said yes. I remember that on race day, I was enthralled with knowing that it was my first road race. I was nine years old. We lined up. The announcer said “Runners ready?” Then the gun went off and the race started. My adrenaline was going so fast that I started out the race too fast. Coach Felix waved me off and told me to slow down before taking off with a pack of men that were in the front. That was the last time I saw him during the race until the last half mile of the race. You see, it was at this point that I started having an asthma attack while I was running and everything in me was saying quit. I couldn’t breathe right. I was tired which was wearing on me mentally and I was running alone. I slowed down to a shuffle that was the slowest pace before a walking pace. My mind was being bombarded with thoughts like ‘what were you thinking?’ ‘You can’t do this, you can barely breathe’ ‘Why did you let him talk you into running this race?’ I was fighting believing these thoughts. In my nine year old mind, I was emotionally overwhelmed and I started crying while I was running. Just then, Coach Felix came up next to me and started running the race with me. He didn’t just run with me, he allowed me to lean on him as I was still having an asthma attack but then he said “I can’t hold you up because you have to cross the finish line by yourself or you’ll be disqualified.” He then pulled away from supporting me physically but still ran alongside of me. All the while, he was speaking words of encouragement, motivation and life into me. He was saying, “Come on Melissa you can do it!” “You’re almost there!” “Don’t quit now!” and he continued on as we got closer and closer to the finish line. When I crossed the finish line, I looked at Coach Felix and he had a big smile on his face. I was so glad he pushed me to keep going. I was then asked by one of the race officials to come with him. I didn’t just finish the race. Apparently, I had also won first place in my age division! My name was in the newspaper and it was one of the most exciting things that had happened to me at that point in my life. Coach Felix taught me the the power of believing. He believed in me and I had to believe in myself. That’s a life lesson that I have continued to carry on.
I still run races and each one comes with its’ own mental challenge no matter the distance of the race is. In February 2011, I ran my first half marathon.
It was the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World here in Orlando, Florida. 17,000 runners began the race and 14,000 finished it. I was one of the finishers. Costumes are encouraged in this race in case you were wondering and you will definitely see many if you ever run or watch this race. During parts of the race, I thought of Coach Felix and the days in which he had me walking the track and remember thinking how far I’ve come. I was wishing he could see me now. Since those early years, I have encouraged a lot of other people to start running their own race and will continue to do so. Thank you Coach Felix for making a difference in my life and in others you may never meet!
Your Friend Mel