I’m not really big on emotion and sappy stories, but even I have a soft spot. The children’s relief fund commercials do nothing for me (although we’ve supported foster kids overseas for 30+ years). The pictures of adoption puppies don’t do it. But after 21 years in the military, I still get choked up at taps. There are certain songs (and I won’t mention which ones they are) that always make me stifle a tear. And having heard the story of Team Hoyt, I can’t get them out of my head.
You’ve probably heard the story already, but just in case you haven’t… Rick Hoyt was born with debilitating physical challenges as a result of oxygen deprivation during birth. Doctors recommended that he be institutionalized as an infant, but his parents chose not to. One year, Rick asked (through a special computer) his father to push him in a local road race. Dick agreed, and the rest is history. They now run marathons (including Boston 30 times) and have done the Kona Ironman Championship, in which Dick completes the swim towing his son in a raft. Watching them compete cracks even a hardened case like me. I’ve thought about why their story has captured me so securely, and I think it’s because of our similarities, and our differences.
You see, we’re both 50. Rick Hoyt (the son) was born in January, 1962… only four months after I was. Born into the same socioeconomic group, at about the same time, but with completely different lives. When I see what Rick Hoyt has endured, I realize how much I have taken for granted. The ability to swim, to ride, to run… heck, just to walk. I can’t get inside his head, but I can tell a little about him. The fact that, bound to a wheelchair and unable to physically speak or control his body in any way, he wanted to run, and asked his father to help him do it, speaks volumes about his spirit. It’s a spirit I wish I could emulate. Even with all I have, and have been given, my most likely reaction in adversity is self-pity and resentment. Quite a difference.
We share another experience. My oldest daughter was born with her umbilical chord wrapped twice around her neck. She went into severe distress in the last minutes of birth. Thanks to the grace of God and His guiding of the doctor’s hands, she was born healthy. But it might not have been so. Could I have been as self-sacrificing a father as Dick Hoyt? I’d like to think so. But, as the apostle Paul said, “Oh wretched man that I am”, I doubt it. I’d like to believe I would, and still can, rise to such a challenge. I pray that I’ll never face such a test.
I think the thing that really captures me about the Team Hoyt story, though, is the call to something bigger than yourself. Those who engage in marathons, triathlons, centuries… we are looking for a challenge, and we’ve likely found it. But Dick Hoyt has found a calling… to enable his son to live life vicariously through his body. It reminds me of the verse, “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.” Somewhere, deep inside, I think we all have a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Athletic competition, pushing our boundaries, can be a part of that, but it can also be “self-absorbing”. At a minimum, our endeavors can be motivational and inspirational to others, if done well. I know Dick Hoyt’s are to me. But can we be more? I suppose that’s the question we all need to answer for ourselves.