Cradle of Humankind

This blog entry will be two-fold. It will serve to tell you about a very moving trip we took while in South Africa and will also be an excerpt from my forthcoming book.  I’m not sure how it will all fit but here goes…P1000995

Standing on a bench looking out over Gauteng Province and all its beauty…

She asks me a question. “What is your why?”

Immediately and without hesitation, my response was, “You.”

We were at the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, South Africa. A place I call the most inspirational and educational place on the planet. It is carved into an open landscape of immense beauty. Rolling lush green hills surrounded by mountains, unique trees, and capped with the bluest skies I have ever seen. We learned quite a bit about the human genome, the formation of the planet, and the emergence of mankind. As one of our friends told us. “You cannot emerge from there unchanged.” We can now attest that it is very true. While there, we marveled, we laughed, we learned, and we cried.

There was a confluence of events that prompted this question. We were in this place marinating in the awesomeness of We Are One. Plus, we had recently watched the movie Collateral Beauty. A very moving film that touched both of our souls. There are a few lines in it that spoke to us. “What is your why” and “I am the only why …Don’t try to live without me.”

The “Why” is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Why you make the choices you do and the catalyst for them are three simple things. Love, time, and death. So Leigh’s question caught me by surprise but not unaware. After watching the movie I had some time to digest and analyze what does it for me. Hince the ability to fire off the answer so quickly.

Please be patient I have been known to go off on wordy tangents and this will be no exception. I promise it will all be tied in and relevant soon enough.

At my core, I am a coach. First, I was a player and that defined me for a while. After my playing days were over, football (American style) was in my blood and to stay close to the game, I began to coach it. My style was simple. All out as fast as you can and never be afraid to take a risk! Develop cohesive units by creating a family atmosphere and eschew the conventional wisdom that says don’t get so close to players because one day you may have to cut them.  It was a labor of love. For years, I honed my craft and had fun doing it.

After a particularly grueling and in-depth meeting with my players, where I revealed the impact that my father (not actually telling me the words he loved me until I was 18) had on me and it’s meaning to my relationships, a player asked me how do you reveal your feelings to someone you feel that way about. My honest answer at the time was “I will let you know.” I think that day is finally here…

If I could time travel, I would go back to that evening leaving the field and explain it to them in football terms, just as I had to digest it, and undoubtedly the best way for them to understand it.

You are a gifted athlete with the ability to make people miss you in small spaces. What you need to explain this feeling, however, is what you use when the sideline is unavailable and contact is unavoidable. The Intestinal fortitude to grip the ball tightly and let your shoulder pads lead the way. Add to that, the discipline of a rush end that must take on a block with their outside shoulder free to set the edge. Knowing they have to trust the linebacker to fill the gap if the play is to be successful. Further, still, you have to be as selfless and humble as an offensive lineman doing their thankless work while someone else gets all the credit and glory. These are the ingredients needed to open oneself up to a place that all your emotions can be laid bare for the world to see and not care that you are exposed. You must be willing to take the risk that you are “all in” and on a highwire without a safety net!

All this to understand that Love is the biggest why!

As we stand in this place looking at the life-like renderings of early homo sapiens. I cannot help but ask the question. What drove them to succeed? What made them continue to exist under such hostile circumstances?

My suspicion is what the movie called the only why (SPOILER ALERT) “Love”. Maybe they could not explain it as easily as we do now but I have no doubt that brothers back then loved each other as much as I love my younger brother David now! Whose embrace I can still feel from our farewell before we took this journey! I wonder if he knows that he is my hero? Well, I suppose if he is reading this he does now.  I am sure they also felt the same love I feel for his wife, Paula, my chosen sister. (We don’t do the inlaw thing in my family). She is the definition of the word “woman” in my book! I am sure back then they loved their sisters as much as I love mine. Delma, who is quickly becoming the glue that ties our little family unit together as we transition from the children to the elders, and Ruby whose strength, intelligence, and character, I admire from afar. I know for sure that they loved their children as much as I love my son, Tim Jr., and would do any and everything to ensure his survival! They had to have loved the laughter of their grandchildren as I do mine. What would be the purpose of securing a future otherwise? They had to feel love for all the uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and those close to the family unit!

So stepping down off that bench after saying those words, “You are my why” the emotion between us was palpable. No words were spoken but none were needed. Later we enjoyed a late lunch at the Tumulus restaurant, an on-site restaurant with great food, service and a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. In this place, it was easy to tell Leigh why she is my why. Loving her is what gets me out of bed in the morning. She is the reason why I strive for excellence in all the things I do. She is the reason why I long to feel love, why I wish for more time, and why I fear death.

We Are One is a common theme throughout this blog. It is something that I have always felt as a human being or citizen of humanity as I like to say. It is one thing to have a feeling of something and it is quite another to have it confront you with absolutely no room for escaping it or leave to ignore it.

This project, through science, highlights the fact that you are 99.9% the same as any person standing next to you no matter where on the planet they are from. Collectively our genes are known as a genome. Our genomes contain about 20,000 genes, each of which contains instructions for building different proteins. Our bodies functions rely on proteins. With such a large number of genes its easy to see how only a 0.01% difference is responsible for our uniqueness. There are no races,  We are all connected and my estimation is the way forward is more of the same way we arrived at this space and time…LOVE!

Till next time

Peace and Blessings

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