Lou Gehrig and I have a lot in common. We both played baseball, and were both all-star first basemen – albeit in a different era and, ok yes, at a somewhat different level. The baseball legend had 8,001 career MLB at bats, which is *checking notes* just 8,001 more career MLB at bats than I had. 🙂
We also both developed the insidious, incurable disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
And, most importantly, we both considered ourselves the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) took Lou Gehrig’s life on June 2, 1941. At the top of his game, in the prime of his life, with so much ahead of him, he was brutally struck down by this devastating disease. Today, as they celebrate Gehrig in MLB, and as many around the world reflect on his legacy on and off the field, I feel a kindred spirit to him, a shared belief about the reality of the hand we were dealt.
Gehrig put a popular face on a deadly, yet relatively unknown disease. His famous speech put so much into perspective, and his ultimate, untimely death brought about more awareness as to the tragic nature of ALS.
I’m going to paraphrase Gehrig’s speech and apply a couple of my own twists to it. I do so not meaning to plagiarize, but as a statement of respect and appreciation for not only our shared path in the battle against this disease, but more importantly as a testament to our shared belief of the true blessings that have been bestowed upon us.
Here is my modified version of Gehrig’s speech, acknowledging those people who have impacted me much like Gehrig did for those in his life.
“For the past two months you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been at baseball games and soccer matches, at school events and business meetings, for twenty years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you.”
“When you look around, wouldn’t you consider it a privilege to associate yourself with such fine men as Jason Linn, Tom Fletcher, or Kevin Kent, or amazing women as Kerrie Lakin, Shawn Hanlon, or Sarah Roberts. They and countless others who have done so much for so many others around them.”
“Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Bruce Hassold? Also, the builders of some of our communities greatest gifts, Steve and Jo Marie Hansen? Or to have spent time with that wonderful little fellow, Steve Oberst? Or to have been influenced over the years by outstanding leaders, the fine men and women who are some of our best coaches, like Filly Afenegus, Michelle Buss, or Travis Chipman? Sure, I’m lucky.”
“When people who might otherwise relish in your defeat, and vice versa, send you a gift – that’s something. When everybody from the business associations to the neighborhood groups remember you with parades and trophies – that’s something. When you have two wonderful brother-in-laws who takes sides with you in squabbles with their own family – that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who worked all their lives so you can have an education and build your body and live your dreams – it’s a blessing.”
“And when you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.”
“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
The real version of Gehrig’s speech can be found here.
It’s brief, but powerful. I read it again this year as someone who is now one year down the path that he also traveled, battling the same disease that took his life, but with the same conviction about the blessings that I have been given in this life.
And I know that regardless of what new challenge or setback that tomorrow will undoubtedly thrust upon me, I believe one thing with every fiber of my being…
I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.