October 27, 2011

David Robinson Stands Tall

I read about another really amazing athlete when looking up Larry Fitzgerald from last week.  David Robinson is so community minded that there is now an award given monthly to charitable basketball players that is named after him!  
David Robinson was born the son of a military man, so he moved a lot as a kid, and he grew to love serving the country.  He was also very athletic, becoming good at each sport except basketball.  He tried it in Middle school, but didn't do well so he quit.  But he kept growing taller.  When he was a Senior in High School, he was 6 foot 7 inches tall and approached by the coach to join the team.  But he had never played organized Basketball!  He learned quickly and did well, but didn't think he'd go any further in Basketball.  The NBA showed little interest in him too.
He was a smart kid and worked hard in school.  After graduating from High School, he was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy to study Mathematics.  He played Basketball for them, eventually growing to 7 feet tall while attending college.  He was considered the best player the Academy ever had!  He received all kinds of awards there and the nickname 'The Admiral.'  After graduating, he was drafted into the NFL and chosen by the San Antonion Spurs.  But they would have to wait until he served two years for the Navy as part of his commitment to the Academy.  
The Spurs waited, and although David was tempted to become a free agent and look for a better offer, he stayed with his original draft pick and played with the Spurs.  He played well enough that he earned a spot on the 1992 Olympic Basketball team nicknamed the Dream Team.  He was named one of the best Basketball players of all time by the NBA among so many other awards I won't even try to list them. Basically he was awarded every award that the NBA awards.  
But the big reason I'm impressed with him is because he inspired and helped kids to go to college.  In 1991, his second year playing for the Spurs, he spoke at a middle school in San Antonio.  He urged the 90 kids in attendance to go to college and promised them that if they did, he'd give them each $2000 towards their college funds.  Then he visited the school often, arranged for tutors for the students who needed them, even arranged pool parties.  In 1998 he awarded one third of those students scholarships to college, but surprised them by giving each of them $8000!  One of the kids, Tyrone Darden, said, "It definitely motivated us.  It was not just a guy stopping by for publicity.  Seeing all the great things he did opened my eyes to the impact I could have on my community.  He pushed me to do more with my life just by being a part of it."
Doing the math, that's more than $240 thousand dollars.  That is a lot of money, but much less than he also donated to a school he and his wife founded in San Antonio called 'George Washington Carver Academy.'  They have given more than $11 million to that school.  That's the most any athlete has ever give to one charity.  And that must be what prompted the NBA to name an award after him.  It's the 'NBA Community Assist Award,' now renamed the "David Robinson Placque" with the inscription, "Following the standard set by NBA legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece."  
This 7 foot tall man is even taller in character.  He was abundantly blessed with a good mind and an athletic body, but he didn't let the fame these gifts gave him to go to his head.  He is a kind man too, giving to those who need it more.  
He's featured on a website called 'Heroes for Humanity.com' and in an article by Rickie Adams, honored thus.  "His gentle demeanor and genuine sportsmanship are a fresh force in a sport that is often dominated by tattoos, expletives and half-court brawls…  With a seven-foot frame that somehow exudes grace and a heart of pure gold, David Robinson is a true role model in a world of false idols. We salute 'The Admiral' and his steadfast efforts to improve the lives of those in his community who might not have a fighting chance for success without his compassion."


Adams, Rickie.  “David Robinson:  It’s a Beautiful Day in Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.” Heroes For Humanity.com Web. 24 Oct 2011.
“David Robinson.”  Wikipedia n. page. Web. 24 Oct 2011.
Doyle, Amanda.  “Class Act.”  Sports Illustrated Kids October 2011:45. Print.

October 17, 2011

Larry Fitzgerald Wears PINK

We had fun this weekend going up to the mountains on Saturday and hiking to a remote waterfall.  The trees are turning colors and the weather was beautiful and clear.  We live in a beautiful world.
Speaking of colorful things…  Today, since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought I'd tell you about an athlete who isn't afraid to wear pink.  And I'm not talking about a female athlete, it's a GUY!  Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals football team supports cancer research by being a spokesman for the American Cancer Society and wearing pink.
How many guy friends of yours would wear bright pink, completely (even gloves and shoes) out in public?  Larry is a tough and rugged football player.  Was it hard for him to put on all that pink and then have his picture taken for the cover of a popular magazine?
He does it to honor his Mom.  Several years ago his Mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  Larry was in the eighth grade.  He and his dad and brother supported her during her treatment.  She had always been healthy and strong, it was hard for him to see her frail and bald.  She used to tell him, "Larry, you're a football player.  That's what you do, but that's not who you are.  Who you are is represented by what you do off the field."  So he tries to do his part in the community, and he chose breast cancer as his focus.  In 2010, he became a spokesman for the American Cancer Society as part of the NFL's 'A Crucial Catch' campaign.  It encourages women over 40 to get screened for the disease and raises money by selling pink NFL merchandise.  Several players, like Larry, wear the gear at games, then it is auctioned off and the money raised is donated to the cause.    
He said, "I learned a lot about how to treat people from her—principles that help me do the work that I do off the field.  My family did a breast cancer walk every year, even before my mom was diagnosed with it.  It was something already ingrained in me and has become such a huge part of my life.  If I can help someone's mom or sister or grandmother, that's one less family that has to be affected by this disease."
So when you see football players wearing pink gloves or cleats, don't snicker.  They are showing support for the cure.  Larry said, "We play a rough and tough game, but at the end of the day we have women in our lives whom we care about and love dearly who are dealing with this disease."  
He goes further by pledging money based on his personal success in football games in October.  On his website, Larry said, "This weekend marks the beginning of breast cancer awareness month. This year, I'll be donating $10,000 for every touchdown and $1,000 for every reception I have in October - the funds will be donated to organizations working to end breast cancer and to support breast cancer survivors."  (see Oct 2nd post 'In His Own Words')  Let's hope he plays really well in October!
Larry credits his mom for his success in Football.  When he was seven, his dad refused to sign him up to play football.  He didn't want him to get hurt because he was so little.  But his Mom caved in to his begging and signed him up.  When his dad saw that he was having fun and doing well, he started supporting him too.  Now he is a successful wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, a team he helped bring to the Super Bowl.  He recently signed an extension of his contract valued at $120 million, making him one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  Clearly he's a great player to merit that kind of pay.  What I like about him is his commitment to helping others too.  Without his mother's illness and influence, would he wear pink in public and give so much of his own money away?  Probably not!


Fitzgerald, Larry as told to Christina M. Tapper.  “From the Heart:  My Mother Lost her Battle with Breast Cancer in 2003 But She Continues to Inspire Me to Help Others.”  Sports Illustrated Kids Oct 2011:32-34.  Print.
­­­Fitzgerald, Larry.  “In My Words.” LarryFitzgerald11.com Web. 17 Oct 2011.

October 11, 2011

Christopher Columbus

Geoffrey just finished a unit at school (4th grade) studying the explorers of the new world.  He dressed up as Ponce de Leon and told his story.  He got a bit dramatic, showing a scab and dying a fantastic death with each retelling, since Ponce de Leon died from an arrow wound to the leg.  

Because of his study, he is particularly knowledgeable about the explorers that found America.  To honor Columbus Day, we're going to share what we learned from him and his fellow students. 

An Italian young man named Cristoforo Columbo, or Christopher Columbus, had big ideas.  He grew up in the wool business.  His dad owned a wool business and traded with other nearby countries.  Christopher learned from his dad about trading, navigation and maps of the world.  He was one of the few people who believed the world was round.  Although he was laughed at a lot, he knew that the world could not be flat.  Traders often sailed to exotic India to trade goods.  Coming from Europe, they had to sail around the southern tip of Africa to get to India.  That was a long and perilous journey. 

Christopher Columbus knew that since the world was round, one could sail the other direction and hit the other side of India.  Columbus first asked Portugal for funding to sail ships WESTWARD to India.  Portugal refused because they were the ones who started sailing around the tip of Africa.  It was their idea and they weren't about to abandon it.  After three years of waiting, Columbus decided to ask Spain.  They said no because they were fighting a war.  After the war ended seven years later, Columbus asked Spain again.  This time they agreed to fund his trip.  

Spain gave Columbus 3 boats called the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.  The King and Queen of Spain ordered the crews to accompany Columbus, some of whom were convicts.  They promised to erase their crimes after returning from this voyage.  After all, it was experimental; some people still believed that they might fall off the world, since they thought the world was flat.  

Columbus set sail in 1492 and after one month the crew became restless.  Mutiny was brewing.  Fortunately, after a second month at sea, they spotted land.  It was AMERICA!  Well, more specifically, what we now call the Caribbean.  He thought he was in India because they didn't know anything about America being there, so he called the place West Indies and named the natives 'Indians.'  

Columbus came back to Spain with big news of their discovery.  Spain sent him on a second voyage with 15 ships.  Columbus was supposed to set up a settlement in the new world.  He brought Juan Ponce de Leon from Spain with him.  They landed in Cuba and tried to set up a settlement there.  

Other men besides Ponce de Leon were taking note:  Giovanni Caboto (or John Cabot) from Italy and Jacques Cartier from France.  They got funding and set sail soon afterwards.  Cabot found Newfoundland and Canada and Cartier found the St. Lawrence River which leads to the Great Lakes.  Vasquez Balboa from Spain and Henry Hudson of England got into the act.  Balboa found the Isthmus of Panama and South America; and Hudson found the Hudson River, Hudson bay and the Hudson Strait.  (He really liked his last name, didn't he?)  And Ponce de Leon set sail himself, from the settlement in Puerto Rico, finding Florida.  (We went to a cool monument in St. Augustine Florida devoted to him.)    

Columbus never set foot in what is now the United States, but he found the Americas.  He had to have great patience—waiting 10 years for sponsorship of his trip.  He also had amazing courage--  he was taking a great risk sailing into uncharted territory (that most believed didn't exist, in fact, that most believed the voyage would end in death by falling off the end of the world) with criminals as his crew, with worries of mutiny, hunger, sickness, sinking, bad weather, and so forth.  

He was inspired to come, along with the others, as part of Heavenly Father's plan for the restoration of the Gospel in the latter days.  Nephi saw it in vision in 1 Nephi 13: 
12 And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and awrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
 13 And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters.
 14 And it came to pass that I beheld many amultitudes of the Gentiles upon the bland of promise…
Heavenly Father was preparing the land for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be restored and then preached unto all the world.  Columbus and the other explorers would set the stage for later settlers to come, like the Pilgrims settling in Plymouth Massachusetts. Nephi is told further about the War of Independence to form the United States and the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith in a free land.  

Columbus and the other brave explorers were inspired by God to find America.  God needed to bring the gospel back to Nephi's seed through the Gentiles.  Columbus was an important part in the step of bringing Gentiles to the Promised Land.  

Did Columbus and the others know that they were fulfilling prophecy by sailing to unknown parts?  If they didn't when they were alive, they probably do now.  God knew that they would do it.  

We all have a work to do here, something to contribute.  No matter what our situation, we can be part of God's work. 

October 5, 2011

Peter Teaches Himself Piano

I want to tell you about a remarkable musician I know.  His name is Peter.  He is Korean, and changed his first name to an American name when he came to America.  After hearing him play the piano beautifully, I asked him if he had taken lessons to learn how to play.  To answer my question, he told me this story.
When he was a Middle School student in Korea, he took a music class at school that met once a week.  He loved the class and looked forward to it each week.  In the class one day he heard a classical piece played on the piano.  After he heard it, he could not get the melody out of his mind.  He had always thought of the piano as an instrument for church music, but this was something different.  He also heard his music teacher play other classical pieces.  He wanted to play the piano so badly that he would put small rocks in the window of the Music Room to prop the window open.  After school he would then sneak back into the room and teach himself how to play the piano.
Peter did this for 2-3 months before the school security found him in the room one day and made him stop.  He wanted to play the piano intensely but his parents were too poor to pay for lessons.  When he was a 2nd year High School student, he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  After he joined the church, he asked the Bishop if he could practice on the church piano after school.  The Bishop told him that he could.
Every day, Peter would go to the church at 3 pm after school and play the piano until 11 pm in the evening.  He would then catch a bus home, eat dinner and study homework from school.  He would get to bed at 2 am and wake up the next morning at 6:30 am to start again.  He loved playing the piano so much that he figured out that he could play until 11:15 pm and then run to the bus stop carrying his heavy student bags.  He did this to get an extra 15 minutes of playing time.  It was risky; if he missed the bus he had a long walk home in the dark.  He studied like this through the rest of his High School years.  He taught himself to play Beethoven Sonatas and Chopin pieces in 6 months.
Peter kept pestering his parents to buy him a piano.  His family lived in a one room house, he knew they didn't have the money, but he asked anyway.  Finally his father bought a used pump organ.  Peter played it until it broke.
Peter has a gift and a great love of music.  He has taught himself to play the flute, saxophone, drums, guitar, and trumpet.  He is a great example of what someone can do with determination, sweat, and the Lord's blessings.
Scott Johnson

October 1, 2011

Thomas S. Monson's Early Experience Helping Another

With Conference coming, I thought I'd tell a story you may have heard before.  But maybe not.  It's about being the right person, in the right spot at the right time.  And it's about someone who will speak to us this weekend…
President Thomas S. Monson hasn't always been the Prophet; in fact, he was once a boy.  He loved to swim and fish in the Provo River, like most boys would.  He was a pretty good swimmer and had a strong young body.
One day Tommy (as he was then called) had gone tubing on the river.  As he turned one corner he was surprised to see a group of people yelling and franticly looking toward the water.  When Tommy came into view, they started screaming at him, "Save her!  Save her!"  He realized someone needed help in the water somewhere, perhaps near him.  But he didn't see anyone in the water.  He looked closely at the water and saw hair float up to the surface. 
He reached in and pulled her up by the hair and hoisted her into his tube.  He paddled to the shore and helped the girl to the bank, where her relatives hugged her and cried for joy.  Then they came to thank Tommy with hugs and kisses.  Tommy, like most boys, was horrified!  He got away and continued his journey, likely wiping off the (disgusting) kisses with the back of his hand.  Later he realized the significance of what had happened. (Grow)
He said, "Heavenly Father had heard the cries, 'Save her! Save her,' and permitted me, a deacon, to float by at precisely the time I was needed. That day I learned that the sweetest feeling in mortality is to realize that God, our Heavenly Father, knows each one of us and generously permits us to see and to share His divine power to save." (Monson)
Tommy had no idea that he would save a girl's life when he headed to the river that day.  He saved her life, though, because he was at the right place at the right time.  What if he had come to the river two hours later?  Perhaps he was guided to get there, so he'd be in position to help her when she needed it.  I tend to think that happened, because President Monson is so good about helping others.  He has made it a habit to help people, often coming to them in the very moment of need.  When he gets a prompting to help someone now, he doesn't question it, he goes.  And often he arrives in the very knick of time!  Perhaps this experience as a boy is what has made him so attuned to the spirit.
I hope President Monson tells more stories of how he has helped people by listening to the spirit and following the prompting this weekend in Conference.  Perhaps his message will save someone, maybe not from drowning, but from other dangers we all face in this crazy world.  He called saving people by following God's promptings, 'the sweetest feeling.'  I'm sure that's why he does it so often. We can all try to listen to promptings so we can help God help others.

Works Cited

Grow, Adam. "President Monson Dedicates New Building." Universe-- universe.byu.edu 16 May 2010. http://universe2.byu.edu/node/8421
Monson, Thomas S. "Who Honors God, God Honors." Ensign November 1995.