Wednesday, August 8, 2012

INSPIRATION: Keep Your Eyes Open

I have wonderful parents. In light of all of the publicity that the parents of Olympic athletes have received (whether positive or negative) as well as my own journey in parenthood, I realize how amazing Robert and Linda Zelenka were, and - praise God - still are. I realize how much they love me. I realize how pivotal there were in shaping me into the person that I am today. I realize, not for the first time or the last, that I have wonderful parents.

In looking back on my childhood, I am impressed by how my parents were able to teach me how to survive while at the same time never making me feel as if I was alone. Their love and support, tough at times, was constant (and still is!). Yet, they were able to strike the balance between sheltering me and allowing me to scrape a few knees, elbows, hands, heads...They gave me roots and wings.

They encouraged me to take chances, but demanded that I make commitments. The only thing I've ever quit - basketball during my junior year of high school - was followed by my enlisting in our school's wrestling team. Of course, my parents supported me. Flippant, though, they would not allow my decision to be. I remember my dad challenging me, if switching to wrestling really was in my future, to stick with it for the entire season.

They helped get me through the University of Notre Dame while I chased a dream of playing collegiate football as a walk-on. I paid off my final student loan last month, a term that would have been much longer had it not been for my parents' many sacrifices.

My parents' support extends well beyond my athletic career. They supported my decision to major in Notre Dame's Great Books Program, the University's equivalent of an education in the seven classic Liberal Arts. Heck, my mom was practically the inspiration when she guided me to declare a major that would excite me for my time in college, not necessarily prepare me for any particular career after I was done. They accepted me joining a service organization upon graduation (the Alliance for Catholic Education) and they have been interested and involved in my career in education.

They are even okay with me living over 1,000 miles away from their home in Berea, OH, making the trip down to Florida a few times a year to spend time with me and my growing family. Despite the distance in miles, I feel a closeness to them that I hope and pray my own children will one day have with me and Emily. I know of their unconditional, selfless and immense love for me. Thinking about my parents loving me today as much as I love my own daughter is simply amazing. Knowing that they've loved me like this my entire life is humbling. 

In a song by Matt Maher called Woke Up in America (see my first INSPIRATION blog for more info on Matt), he sings:
My parents gave me a life full of dreams / yeah, they gave me a heart to endure almost anything.
Perhaps the Zelenkas knew the Mahers, because I couldn't agree more. My parents gave me dreams. They galvanized me to chase after them. They instilled me with faith and taught me how to see with it instead of my eyes.

As the Olympics near their end, we will most likely hear something about the parent(s) of yet another athlete. If nothing else, we'll see some overly sacchrine commercials about how much the mom and/or dad of an Olympian has helped them to compete in London. I'm not in London and I'm not an Olympic athlete, but I have wonderful parents. World class. Olympic.  

Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you.