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Teach Them To Fish

February 17, 2014

I have a Monday evening after-work ritual.

I live in a bubble in Miami.  My condo is on a private island that is gated.  My neighbors are CEOs and NBA players and yacht owners.  When I go to work, I drive down a tree-lined street.  My office is on one of the most beautiful and perfectly groomed campuses in America, if not the world.  My students are intellectual and from impressive backgrounds.  In my day-to-day life, the world looks perfect.  It’s blissful, happy, cheerful and welcoming.  All is right.

I don’t come from this bubble world.  I come from a background where my dad worked seven days a week so that my family could make ends meet.  I come from a household where for the first fifteen years of my life, we lived in a tiny two bedroom duplex and all shared one bathroom.  I come from a life, where although my family did not have much financially, they always taught me to give to others.  Whether it be the extra couple of dollars in my wallet or my time, my parents both taught me that with a richness of spirit, I could live a good, happy life.

As I get deeper into this life and more opportunities come into it, I don’t want to lose that little girl whose circumstances drove her ambition.  I never want to become disconnected with my roots.  I never want to lose sight of the struggles that fueled me to succeed.

So, on Monday nights, I take a drive north.  I get out of Coral Gables and drive past my island home.  I go into Miami’s projects.  And I just cruise and cruise and take left turns and right turns.  I stare into faces and look at dilapidated houses.  And I see what so many others would probably describe as “bleak” as opportunity.

Neither of my parents hold a college degree.  Yet, with their limited educations, they steered me well through life.  They both realized that an education was the key to improving my future.  While they instilled the importance of an education in my mind, outside mentors largely helped steer the course I took from that point on.

While I credit my parents most for the success I’ve found in life, I would not be where I am today without the individuals who took an interest in my life and taught me how to be a leader.  These individuals range from my big sister in my sorority to my pastors at church and the student activities director at my undergraduate college to my sports law professor in law school.  The time and attention each of these individuals gave to me in ensuring that I was becoming the best I could be is why I have been able to accomplish what I have in my life.

On my drive today, I saw a handful of children presumably walking home from school.  As I looked at their surroundings, I wondered what dreams they have for their futures.  When your life is surrounded by chaos, poverty and despair, where do you look for hope?  How do you have a dream bigger than your situation when that is the portrait that is painted for your life?

If I had not been exposed to outside influences and a variety of people who outlined the options I had for my life, I do not know where I would be today.  When this realization hit me today, there was only one thing I could think of:  It is time for me to become that positive influence for somebody else.  While I am not an artist, I can help paint a brighter future for a child who could benefit from seeing the picture of her life depicted in another way.

One of my favorite quotes is the Chinese proverb that reads, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  For those of us with hectic schedules, it’s so easy to just write checks to organizations or attend galas and believe that we are making a difference.  While those efforts are commendable and help address issues, they are not the best when it comes to digging to the root of an issue.  To really address our society’s issues and problems, we must get down into the trenches and lend a hand.  We must teach those we want to inspire how to fish.  We must be leaders for our community’s young people and show them how to steer their lives down productive paths.  We must model to our young people the value of a life well lived and the importance of using platforms to serve others.

I’ve been putting off the opportunity I have to help young people outside of the university setting for too long.  So, today I made a move and applied to become a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami.  My goal in doing this, is to teach at least one young woman how to fish, and hopefully build a more positive future for her life.

In the summer of 2007, I interned at the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles.  CLCLA serves over 40,000 abused and neglected children in Los Angeles County.  Then, the waiting list for children to receive a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters was in the thousands.  My colleagues and I would often discuss how a particular child client’s life might be steered in a more positive direction if only they could be matched with a mentor.

Will you join me in stepping up and teaching a young person in your community how to fish?  Over the next ten days (through February 28), I will be hosting a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer drive.  How many people in the #Sports4Good community are willing to teach a young person in their community to fish? How might a couple hours of your life each month improve the outlook of your community’s future?

To motivate you to apply to become a volunteer, I will be raffling off a $50 Visa gift card.  To be entered in the raffle, take a screen shot of your completed volunteer application and email it to me at RulingSports@gmail.com.  Every person who emails me a completed volunteer application by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 28, 2014 will be entered in a drawing for the gift card.  On March 1, 2014, one entrant will be selected at random as the winner.  This person will be notified by email.

So, are you going to sit on the shore or are you going to come out to the sea and teach someone to fish?  The choice is yours.

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