Last weekend kicked off our 2020 nutrition challenge. I had been working on it all week and up until our kick-off seminar Sunday morning. As the seminar concluded, my wife Shannon dropped off my 6-year-old son Dylan at the gym so we could hang out. He stayed busy for another hour while we continued working. It was finally time to step away from work and be with him so I let him pick the play spot.
“Competition Park!” he said. Translation…Constitution Park. “We can do that,” I said with a big smile. I grabbed us each our own FitAid and off we went.
As we’re walking up to the playground, there are two families walking up with little boys just about the same age as Dylan. Another boy spots them from the playground and runs up and gives them giant hugs. I step off to the side and watch this ridiculously cute moment.
Instead of moving to the side, my son Dylan steps right up to the three boys, and in the most joyful voice says, “Hey guys! I’m here too!”
Leave it to Dylan, to make a cute moment even cuter. The “awww” of the surrounding moms got louder and one asked her son to ask for Dylan’s name. They exchanged names and almost exchanged hugs too. The boys ran quickly up to the top of the playground. Not as adventurous Dylan opted for the swings with Dad.
Every day I learn something from my kids. I’m amazed by the way Dylan can walk up to a group of strangers without hesitation or prejudice. He doesn’t sit there and wonder if someone will judge him, like him, or approve of him. He simply sees joy in a moment and knows he wants to be a part of it.
Some might see Dylan’s lack of social skills and social awareness from being born on the autism spectrum as a hindrance. It’s hard not to see it as a blessing.
My wife and I have worried in the past about how he won’t even know when kids are making fun of him. What’s so bad about that? Isn’t that an incredible trait to be able to accept praise and deflect criticism?
My son has traits I aspire to. He has been a role model for me on how to unconditionally accept everyone that comes into my gym, everyone that comes into my life.
In today’s (1/20) passage in “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday, he quotes Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations”. Aurelius says, “Your principles can’t be extinguished unless you snuff out the thoughts that feed them, for it’s continually in your power to reignite new ones…It’s possible to start living again! See things anew as you once did – that is how to restart life!”
I’m blessed to have kids who restart life for me. Who bring new life to old principles I may have forgotten or ignored. As much as I want to teach them, I’m open to learning from them first.
Today is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day we honor a man who preached unconditional love and acceptance. He “fought” for change by being as peaceful as possible. His only weapon was the power of his pen and that of his spoken word.
I’ve witnessed firsthand almost 10 years of new life through the eyes of my son and daughter. It’s clear that we’re born full of love and have to go out of our way to learn hate. As Dr. King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
I’m grateful my kids have retaught me the lessons of unconditional love and acceptance. It’s my wish for everyone reading this that they’ll love just a little more today. Smile at someone you don’t know or learn something new about someone you do.
Andrew and I have always wanted to create a gym that unconditionally accepted everyone. The only prerequisite to join is agreeing to openly accept the person that comes in after you.
When I see someone new walking into our doors, I’ll think of Dylan walking up to that group of boys. I’ll picture that person saying, “I’m here too.” And treat them the way I would want my son, or daughter, to be treated in any new situation.
We hope to continue to create a place everyone feels accepted, always.
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