Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Billy Mills

I just returned from a trip to Lake Tahoe where I attended a big family reunion. (My husband has 29 first cousins.) On my return United flight, I flipped through the July 2008 issue of Hemisphere’s Magazine and came across an interview with Billy Mills, a Native American legend who earned an Olympic gold medal in track in 1964. His story made me tear up. (To read the full article, “Running Strong” by Maria Johnson, click here and go to Page 96.)

Asked how he got involved in sports, Mills replies:
Shortly after my mom died, my dad and I went fishing, but I was in another world. My dad hugged me and simply said, "Son, you have broken wings." I started crying, and he said, "I’ll share something with you, and if you follow it, someday you’ll have the wings of an eagle… Close your eyes and look inside your heart. What do you find?"

Well, I was too young to understand, but he said, "I’ll tell you what you find: anger, because you just lost your mom; hate, because people have expressed hatred toward us; jealousy, because we don’t have anything of value; self pity. All of those emotions destroy you." He said, "Look down deeper, where the dreams lie. Find your dream, son. Pursue your dream. It’s the pursuit of a dream that heals you."
Mills’ dream was to win an Olympic gold medal in the 10,000 meter. Even though he wasn’t fast in the beginning, running brought him tranquility: “It was almost spiritual,” he says.

Today, he tells young people:
With dreams come desire. With desire comes self-motivation. With self-motivation comes work. With work comes success. Where do you find your positive desires? Sports? Drama? Music? Art? Dance? Writing? Work with the elderly? Anything that’s constructive, joyful. When do you know you’ve found that positive desire? Something happens in your heart. You feel it. You’re able to accept defeat, not failure.

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