Fourth of July Frolics…..

I love the 4th of July – heat, humidty and all. Not that I would mind mild weather, but I’m not usually in places where that is likely to happen. Wednesday we went down to Key Largo for a small town parade with firetrucks, floats, and a high school beauty queen in a convertible. And while political candidates are common in parades, you don’t usually see candidates running for the county Mosquito Control Board. Yes, it was sweltering hot, but hey, that’s why they make hats and cold beverages. After the parade, it was over to one of our canal-side bar and grills for burges, fries and cold draft beer.

Back home for a few hours, then down to the Speedway that was hosting the local festivities with live music and a touching Naturalization Ceremony for five current and former military members who were officially granted citizenship. Then it was more mingling with neighbors, friends, and acquaintances, another burger (I know, I know) and of course more cold beer. The fireworks were great and a breeze even picked up. Mother Nature did threaten a bit with rain, but held off with only clouds. The Speedway or whomever is in charge of traffic flow had it figured out pretty well because we spent very little time getting out of the parking lot and headed home.

Then it was tune into the second running of A National Fourth on PBS and by that time, I was as tired as I wanted to be. It was a great day!

A Story of Faith, Talent, and Hard Work…..

No, I don’t mean faith as in a specific religion, but rather faith in the concept of hard work combined with talent. In this particular case, it is gymnastic ability. We have a  young man here who made the U.S. Olympic team over the weekend after having progressed through winning medals in a number of different national and world-wide competitions. It is breathtaking to watch him on the rings, the bars, and even his floor routines are strong, but it is the backstory that is especially intriguing. I haven’t asked permission to use the names in the post, so I’ll simply tell the story.

The young man’s mother and stepfather, both nationally rated gymnasts, fled Cuba when the child was very young. They were not people of means and came here seeking what so many others do – a dream. They worked at building a new life, the stepfather taking jobs in a car wash and in fitness centers, always with the fervent hope of owning his own training gym someday. Not surprisingly, the child did show talent that they carefully nutured. The couple managed to scrape together the funds to open a gym as they wanted and made their goal quite simple. They would provide instruction and the opportunity for youngsters to reach for national and world championships, for the Olympics. When you find this tucked away studio, it doesn’t compare to a powerhouse university, but hanging against the back wall is a huge banner depicting the Olympic rings; a goal that every single student is told is attainable. Not every student has the talent of course, nor is every student willing to put in the hours and hours of work required to hone their skills to that level. Many of the students, however, have won regional awards, and others have taken national prizes. And now, it has happened, one of their own will travel to London to compete on the U.S. Olympic team.

When the weekly paper that I write for was told of the story by a parent whose child trains at the studio, I had the pleasure of going to speak with the young man and the stepfather immediately prior to a major competition that was a stepping stone to the Olympic trials. In the course of the interview, the stepfather smiling dismissed the people who told him his dreams of creating Olympic champions was foolish. Heart, faith, hard work, and a good teacher was his formula; a formula that he offers to each student that comes through his door.

I don’t know how the young man will fare at the Games, but I wish him well. Even if he doesn’t bring home a medal, he has already attained a goal that only a small percentage of athletes ever do.