I was watching the annual "Espy" awards last night after I arrived home from church. It was the typical "I'll pat you on the back if you pat me on the back," fare, until they announced the winners of the Arthur Ashe award.
The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is presented annually to individuals whose contributions transcend sports. Last year the award was presented to George Weah, the Liberian-born soccer legend who led his national team to greatness, at great personal and financial risk, in the midst of that nation's political upheaval.
In 2003 the award went to Pat and Kevin Tillman, brothers who gave up professional sports careers to serve their country by enlisting in the U.S. Army. (Pat Tillman was killed in combat April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan).
In 2002, the Ashe Award was given to Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, four passengers who lost their lives September 11th on United Flight 93.
Previous recipients include: Jim Valvano (1993), Steve Palermo (1994), Howard Cosell (1995), Loretta Claiborne (1996), Muhammad Ali (1997), Dean Smith (1998), Billie Jean King (1999), Dave Sanders (2000) and Olympian Cathy Freeman (2001).
This year the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Jim MacLaren, two disabled athletes who embody the toughness of spirit and never-give-up attitude that are the hallmarks of the award and its namesake, at The 2005 ESPY Awards.
Yeboah, subject of the soon-to-be-released documentary film Emmanuel's Gift, is originally from Ghana, a country where disability has historically been stigmatized to appalling levels. Born with a severely deformed right leg and faced with near-constant struggle, Yeboah has dedicated his life to changing perceptions of the disabled in his homeland. He earned worldwide acclaim when he embarked on a quest to bicycle across Ghana -- a distance of over 370 miles, with one leg -- in a journey that is documented in the film.
MacLaren has survived two would-be fatal accidents and risen to all the challenges that life has put in his path. A Yale graduate and a former All-American lacrosse and football player, MacLaren was hit by a New York City bus at age 22 and lost a leg. After the accident he battled back to become a top marathoner and Ironman triathlete, racing against and beating able-bodied competition, and earning the rank of the fastest amputee athlete in the world.
Eight years after the first accident he was struck again, this time by a van during a triathlon, and became an incomplete quadriplegic. Battling back once more, MacLaren has become a motivational speaker. His amazing story and positive, courageous attitude now inspires others to greatness.
I watched as some of the most acclaimed and popular athletes in the world stood and applauded for several minutes. Many of the were crying.
It is truly inspirational and positive to hear and see stories like that. It's nice to know that the world is still full of people who are reaching beyond their handicaps to do great things.
Kind of puts our situations in perspective doesn't it? And inspires us to go beyond where we are at - and do great things for God and for others.
I encourage you today to face your situation with courage!
Be strong. Be bold!