On a recent Saturday, I attended the season ending event of Xcel 2 Fitness. Using obstacle courses and similar equipment, this afterschool program encourages young boys to become stronger physically and spiritually so they can fulfill their potentials. They call themselves “dream chasers”. The name is self-defining.
On an athletic field miles from uptown, I watched as hundreds of third to fifth grade boys ran through the Dream Chaser Challenge. Dressed in brightly colored shirts, this legion of lads worked their way through a giant obstacle course. Competing for the best overall time, in 90-degree heat, this army of red-cheeked boys moved though the course inspired by their creed, “I chase greatness”.
The X2F obstacle courses represent the path these boys face on their life journeys. Growing up brings one challenge after another. Almost every day, they succeed. But, sometimes they lose their balance, stumble and even fall. The challenges make them stronger. Overcoming obstacles gives them confidence.
Always among them are the coaches. Mostly dads and dad like persons who give their time during practices every week. A steady touch when they lose their balance. A helping hand to rise from a fall. And on this day, like many times before, they encouraged the boys as they confronted the biggest challenge of the year. Like Yoda to young Skywalker, their presence is the force that gives these young warriors courage. One day these boys will grow to be well-rounded men. Their strength and agility may come from the X2F training. Their character will likely be a reflection of the coaches who gave their time.
Later that day, I watched another group of elementary school kids perform the well-known musical Annie, Jr. On the stage of an uptown school far from that obstacle course, I found another group of dream chasers. While the events looked different to most, I saw the similarity. That evening, young girls and boys challenged themselves on that theater stage. This time the obstacles were remembering lines and following choreography. Inspiration for them came as together they sang the lyrics of Tomorrow, “I just stick out my chin and grin …” Adults supported these performers, too – changing costumes, moving sets, and playing the piano. Timely applause for their efforts. Without them, the show would not go on.
The curtain came down and ended a day when I witnessed the power of presence in two distinctive occasions. Different locations. Different faces. Remarkably alike.
Just seven days later, in yet another part of town, hundreds of young boys ran the Let Me Run 5K following their credo to push themselves to be fit in body, mind and spirit. I watched again as another wave of bright green shirts flowed across the finish line. Each boy chasing his own unique dream displayed on the overhead clock.
Once again, dads and coaches ran alongside, stride for stride, focusing on the boys’ efforts rather than their own times. Some dads slowed a step allowing their young men another boost in self-confidence by crossing the line before them. Coaches spoke words of encouragement when runners struggled the last few yards on a warm and muggy morning.
The power of presence. Wherever they are and whatever they do, as children confront their challenges, they need to know someone will praise them as they climb and catch them if they fall. This presence can help build strength, endurance and agility. It can help reveal gifts and talents. It can help build character and self-esteem. All kids need to experience it – on an obstacle course, a theater stage or wherever they seek to do their best. When someone cares, children find the courage to chase their dreams. When someone is present, they feel hope. They come to believe, “the sun will come out tomorrow” and so they carry on.
As Be There Dad continues to expand, we need more dads and dad like persons to be present in the lives of kids. If you have a few hours a month to give, please send me a note at [email protected]