Dive deep to find the gift of con­nec­tion

The Covington News - - OPINION - To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers, visit www.cre-

“Driven to Dis­trac­tion” is no longer just a ti­tle to a book that cov­ers ADHD, but it is also a phrase that de­scribes how many of us feel in our day-to-day lives. The op­por­tu­ni­ties and choices are enor­mous and they can eas­ily over­whelm our ca­pac­ity to make or­der out of our ev­ery­day world.

David Brooks’ opin­ion piece in the New York Times ear­lier this month ti­tled “The Art of Fo­cus” pro­vided ad­vice to beat this chal­lenge. “The les­son from child­hood, then, is that if you want to win the war for at­ten­tion, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the triv­ial dis­trac­tions you find on the in­for­ma­tion smor­gas­bord; try to say ‘yes’ to the sub­ject that arouses a ter­ri­fy­ing long­ing, and let the ter­ri­fy­ing long­ing crowd out ev­ery­thing else.

“The in­for­ma­tion uni­verse tempts you with mildly pleas­ant but ul­ti­mately numb­ing di­ver­sions,” Brooks wrote. “The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your ob­ses­sions six fath­oms deep. Down there it’s pos­si­ble to make progress to­ward ful­fill­ing your ter­ri­fy­ing long­ing, which is the ex­pe­ri­ence that pro­duces the joy.”

This ex­pe­ri­ence of dig­ging deep into ob­ses­sion is the topic of a new book writ­ten by Len Forkas, “What Spins the Wheel: Lead­er­ship Lessons from Our Race for Hope.” Forkas tells the story of find­ing out his son has leukemia, start­ing a non-profit, Hopecam (to con­nect chil­dren with cancer to their class­rooms) and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Race Across Amer­ica (a 3,000mile bike race) to raise money for Hopecam.

“Chil­dren who con­nect with Hopecam will tell you the most im­por­tant part of see­ing their friends on the we­b­cam is the sim­ple re­minder that they have not been for­got­ten, and they are not alone,” Forkas wrote.

Pro­vid­ing the gift of con­nec­tion. Hu­mans need to know that, rather than be­ing alone, there are oth­ers who are will­ing to stand with us dur­ing our times of trial.

Forkas tells the story of how he found his ob­ses­sion: “Sir Ken Robin­son’s book, ‘Find­ing Your Ele- ment.’ Robin­son sug­gests that us­ing your strengths in such a nat­u­ral way that things be­gin to flow is the key to cre­ativ­ity, hap­pi­ness and trans­for­ma­tion. Read­ing and think­ing about his mes­sage forced me to look deep in­side my­self and think about how I was able to use my strengths to reach a goal — first, help­ing Matt, and then later, help­ing other kids with cancer.

“Dur­ing RAAM (Race Across Amer­ica), I was in my el­e­ment. I’m not fast or ag­ile. My cy­cling tech­nique isn’t tuned to max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency. I’m not an ex­cep­tional ath­lete. I am a fa­ther, hus­band, busi­ness owner and some­one who wants to make a dif­fer­ence. My son is alive. I owe it to these chil­dren to help them. If there is any­thing that dif­fer­en­ti­ates me from oth­ers, it’s that once I set a goal, I don’t quit. How for­tu­nate I am to have found hap­pi­ness do­ing some­thing that I love and us­ing it in a way that ben­e­fits oth­ers.”

Forkas’ drive to com­plete the 3,000-mile event was fu­eled by his de­sire to con­nect chil­dren fight­ing cancer with their friends; to al­low them to re­tain and ce­ment friend­ships that other­wise might fall to the way­side dur­ing their per­sonal strug­gle; to pro­vide the gift of con­nec­tion.

“Even if there is no im­me­di­ate cri­sis we have to deal with, it seems that all of us are striv­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the world,” Forkas wrote. “By look­ing deep in­side our­selves, we can iden­tify which unique and God-given gifts we can use in ser­vice to a mean­ing­ful goal. That’s how we cre­ate op­por­tu­nity out of cri­sis, and spin the wheel from neg­a­tive to pos­i­tive. That’s how we walk the sky­bridge across that dan­ger­ous and un­known abyss that con­nects our old and fa­mil­iar life to what’s wait­ing for us on the other side.”

“What Spins the Wheel” is about more than lead­er­ship and achiev­ing goals; it’s about a fa­ther’s love for his son, his de­ter­mi­na­tion for his son to be able to con­nect not only with fam­ily but also with friends dur­ing his bat­tle against leukemia and about how one per­son’s ob­ses­sion can im­prove the lives of many oth­ers.

Con­nec­tion, know­ing that we are not alone, that we are loved, might just be the best gift that a par­ent can give a child.

COLUM­NIST

JACKIE CUSH­MAN

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