“In the Arena” Part 1

Too often we are surrounded by doubters, immense pressure, nae sayers and the voice in our head telling us, “it can’t be done, this is impossible, no one has ever done this before and we have never done it this way.” The statement that fires me up the most… “you aren’t capable..”

Imagine these words relentlessly pelting your spirit and dragging your soul and good faith through thick mud littered with sharp glass.

There is a movie I would often play for my middle school students, titled Cool Runnings. Cool Runnings is a 1993 film created by Disney (written by Siefert and Ritchie) and is based on the Jamaican bobsled team debut during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary Alberta Canada. The notion of a Jamaican bobsled team seems far fetched. Let’s call it what it is and confront the stereotypes and bias. The average temperature in Jamaica is between 80 and 90 degrees. Snow is nowhere in sight on the island of Jamaica, Jamaica has never had a bobsled team, plus 90.9% of all people in Jamaica are black and are extremely rare in the sport of bobsledding.

At the time, bobsledding was heavily dominated by white athletes, and the prospect of an all African American bobsled team was again extremely rare. To not spoil the movie, this film became a staple in my teaching because the movie accurately portrayed several tenants of adversity, doubt, triumph and the will to succeed despite all circumstances. This movie can also translate into a clear analogy about life.

While we are not pushing a literal bobsled everyday, we are pushing forward each day to make a difference in our world and create some type of substantial change. As you are pushing your “bobsled” there will be people on your side pushing with you.

As in our movie, the Jamaican people supported their team by helping them fund-raise and uplift them with unmeasurable moral support. The second half of the movie gives the audience a very visible contrast to the original support given. Within moments, the Jamaican bobsled team heard loud voices tell them they couldn’t do it. Some of the individuals were family members, members of the community and the world at large. As you can imagine the magnitude of the volume, the bobsled team had an uphill battle to prove they were worthy of a chance. The team leaned in, and walked into a place littered with uncertainty, criticism, doubt, racism, hate and bias. I would like to call this space, “the arena.”

In part 2, President Theodore Roosevelt will help me describe “the arena” and how we can be consumed by the looming shadow of life.

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