As far as I can tell, the only truly good things about the gym are childcare and air conditioning. The elliptical machine, sweaty guys staring at themselves in the mirror, and fighting Miss Size Zero for the leg press machine are necessary evils.
Yesterday while sweating on the elliptical, I saw Michael Phelps’ interview with CNN. Which became another truly good thing about the gym: seeing a national icon who has his head screwed on straight.
- Phelps is trying to love and help others with his gifts. Recently, he flew across the country to be with a terminally ill child who admires him.
- His role models are athletes who value hard work and personal responsibility, rather than just the fame and glory.
- When told most of the US Olympic athletes mentioned him as their role model, he said “I don’t know about that. I’m just a normal guy.” This from a man who’s spent 20 years of his life in a pool, working out 6 or more hours a day. And he really meant it.
After the London games, Phelps plans to retire. But you know what? The best aspects of him aren’t related to a pool at all. He’s doing with his gifts what each of us can: using them to make the planet a better place, to be a role model, and to squeeze every last ounce from his personal strengths. Is he perfect? Nope. But then again, neither are we.
Which means you and I can be icons too. Beacons of hope for others. People who inspire and give from our strengths to grow others and our communities. Elite athletes in a different kind of race – the human race – where the prize isn’t gold, but a full, meaningful life that makes a difference.
Whether that’s in a pool, elbows deep in laundry, wiping toddler noses, being a good friend, running a business, ministering to AIDS victims in Africa, or simply smiling and talking with the homeless person on your corner.
That Phelps has multitudes of medals is only his beginning. Wherever you’re at today is your beginning, too. What kind of legacy will you leave?
Let’s make it count!
(Photo Credit: David Grey/Reuters via The Guardian online)