I Got a Black Belt for My Birthday


Yesterday was my 59th birthday. And since I am blessed with all of my needs and most of my wants met and am surrounded by a family that loves me, there was little for me to wish for. But I did want one thing for my birt0271hday – a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

The black belt wasn’t for me; it was for my daughter Hesper.   For those of you that don’t know her, Hesper is a beautiful, bright and talented girl. She can also kick your butt, having studied Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do at a do jang near our home. After two and a half years she was ready to test for her black belt.

I have six children who are all good looking and talented in wonderfully diverse ways. I love them all and am proud of them. But what I saw culminate last weekend in Hesper was the most serious preparation and powerful determination I have seen in a long time.

This girl has studied five to six days a week for two and a half years. She fought through injury and daily pain. She went to class when she was sick, mad and depressed. She gave up a lot of time with friends and family and missed out on a lot of fun.  Actually, she crammed a lot of fun in between Tae Kwon Do, work, Church and family obligations — which was exhausting.0331

She didn’t just put in her time. She was a humble, hardworking and dedicated student. She listened and learned. She practiced and practiced and practiced. Night after night she came home exhausted, but with a new story about what she had learned and how she had applied it. She really learned her stuff.

The end result was the most prepared and competent student you could imagine.   Any yet, with all of that she was very nervous about the test. Her solution was to focus, concentrate and pray hard (which I did too). She entered the testing ready. She was not only ready, she gave it her all and then some. She was oblivious to the requirements of the test or the contingencies of the moment. She has no idea how hard others tried or how well they did. After watching her, “being in the zone” and “giving 110%” are no longer clichés for me. I have seen them in action.

My point, besides bragging on my daughter, is that she could be wearing that black belt (no, we can’t get her to take it off) today having expended far less effort. But for her, nothing less but her best would do. And that is the spirit that is so often lacking in our lives, our work, our relationships and our religion. Participation trophies in sports programs, social promotion in schools, relaxed standards in everything – you know the rants. And, of course, I am tempted. But not today; I don’t need it today.

I have sitting in front of me a perfect example of what it means to be the best and to have being the best be its own reward.   But I’ll tell you one thing. My life will be different because of what I saw this weekend. I am going to be a better man because she has given me a great example, set that standard of excellence and let me know it can be done.

Congratulations Hesper!

I love you!

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