“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like my disability disappears.” – Ricky Hoyt
When I get into “cleaning-out” mode, I get serious. The purging FEELS SO GOOD! The pack rats I live with hate it because I get rid of their stuff too (seriously, they usually don’t notice something is gone until months or years later, if ever. Then I play dumb.) Anyhow, I was about to chuck this into the garbage because who has a VHS recorder anymore? But I hesitated with this one.
See, Stevie-D quit smoking in ’92, but the hand-to-mouth habit lingered and without nicotine coursing through his veins to suppress his appetite, let’s just say he gained a little weight. But my husband is an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and when he did decide to start exercising he went from doing a 5K fun run to completing 13 triathlons, including a Half-Ironman, in less than a year. Like Texas Hold ‘Em, he went all in with triathlon and even did Ironman Canada a couple of times. I became a triathlon widow.
As triathlons became an obsession in our house, that VHS tape showed up and we would watch it from time to time. The reason I can’t throw it away can be summed up in four words: Dick and Ricky Hoyt. See for yourself (their story starts at 1:01.)
Every time I watched this tape and got to the Hoyts, I cried. Every. Single. Time. Still do. First off, the physical feat alone is staggering. I once did an Olympic distance triathlon (not pulling or pushing anyone but myself in the process) and it was three hours of suck. Dick is just, well, a stubborn, hard-driving, determined, committed, compassionate, loving father who gave his intelligent son who was locked inside of an uncooperative body wings. The funny thing is that, when lauded for what he had done for his son, Dick said it was Ricky who saved him. And isn’t that how it is really? We help someone in some way, large or small, and it enriches us as much if not more than the person we helped.
Last Fall, my older daughter did an Ironkids triathlon, and the brotherly version of the Hoyts was competing amongst the 1500 kids who showed up that day. I hadn’t heard of them but as soon as I saw one child pulling another in a raft behind him in the pool to complete the swim, I can’t deny that I shed a few tears watching what looked to me like an example of pure love unfolding before my eyes. Conner and Caden Long are 9 and 7 respectively. Caden was born with cerebral palsy and his family’s story is remarkably similar to the Hoyts, down to having doctors suggest that the parents go ahead and put him into a home for the rest of his life.
These are just two stories amongst God knows how many of people at their most generous. May we all find our kindest, most compassionate selves to share with each other. Please share any similar stories with me with a link in the comments section. I’m a sucker for a happy cry.