It’s one in the morning and I’m on a redeye from Salt Lake City to JFK, then on to Pitt. I should be fast asleep right now, but my brain is on super charge. I’m just coming off my company’s annual convention, and it touched me in so many ways…. We had a keynote speaker, Kevin Carroll. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s an amazing man. Kevin was born to never know his father, and his mother was a drug user. She was constantly uprooting Kevin and his two brothers (Kevin being the middle child) and they didn’t have any consistency to their life whatsoever. Kevin just wanted to go to school; he knew that’s where he should be.
One day, after getting to attend school for two solid weeks, the mother called Kevin and his older brother to the front office and said, once again, “Let’s go.” Kevin was six, his older brother eight and his younger brother three. She pulled them into the car and drove for some eight straight hours. Finally, she pulled up to an unfamiliar trailer and took the boys inside. She told them not to leave the trailer until she came back to get them.
One day went by, then another. And another. Soon seven days went by, and their mother never returned. It was on that seventh day that Kevin told his older brother to do something about the situation, and his response was, “I’m only eight years old, what am I supposed to do?” That’s when Kevin knew he had to save himself and his brothers. He had memorized his grandfather’s phone number, so he went outside and found a lady to help them. She called their grandfather and said she had found the boys and he was more than willing to help as usual. The grandfather asked the lady to take them to the bus station and ask the bus driver to drive them back to Philly and he would pay him the bus fare when the boys returned home. The bus driver was white, the boys were black, and this was in 1954.
That bus driver and the lady, who Kevin calls his angels now, got the boys back to Philly and their grandfather safe and sound. The grandfather then laid down the rules, telling them he would take care of them but that they’d have to pretty much raise themselves. That was the deal. Kevin and his brothers took it.
But all Kevin cared about at that point in his very young life was to play. They passed a park and he begged his grandfather to let him out so he could run and play and just be a kid for a while. So his grandfather dropped him off alone in the park. There weren’t any other kids around, but there was a red kickball lying over in the field. Kevin ran over and grabbed the ball and started kicking it in the air and would catch it before so many bounces. He was running all over chasing that ball, having a blast. Then he heard someone yell at him, and he turned to see a group of boys standing in the park. He walked over to them, expecting them to take his ball back. But instead, and much to his surprise, the boys asked Kevin he he wanted to play with them.
For the rest of the day, at least five solid hours, Kevin stayed in that park playing ball with the group of boys. He now says that afternoon changed his life forever. After all the years of being on the run, with a wayward mother, he was accepted and asked to be a part of something by new friends
Even though the social worker that visited his grandfather would say she didn’t expect the boys to amount to anything, Kevin only let that inspire him to prove her wrong. And in the years to come he did. Kevin went on to play basketball and run track and do many other team sports because he loved being a part of something, and he wanted to belong. And most importantly, he loved to play.
From there, Kevin went on to enjoy a life in sports, as a player and became an assistant coach in the NBA. During that time, he was approached by Nike, where he was offered a position created solely for him. He also tells people his story as a way to inspire others.
Kevin said so many things today that resonated with me. One thing I can pride myself in is being in touch with my inner child and with my inner artist. So many adults lose that and start to only play when it’s safe. There are 84,600 seconds in a day. Most adults spend way too much time fretting, or complaining, or making excuses. We need to remember that we are all unique creatures that have unique talents and gifts. When we don’t tap into them we are robbing ourselves and our loved ones, and even the world, of what our full potential might allow us to do. As Kevin said, “You gotta get your shine on!”
My heart has been aching lately to really help children because I truly believe we save this crazy world by saving our children. Friday night I watched “The Blind Side,” which left me in tears and resulted in me texting my husband and telling him I wanted to help a child in need. Maybe even adopt one day. Then at the convention I learned that Nu Skin distributors have sent 200 million meals to Malawi through our Force For Good program. Before we implemented the Vitameal food plan, hundreds of thousands were dying of starvation and malnutrition. Now, it’s a much better place and the people healthier and living longer.
But Kevin Carroll’s story was the icing on my cake. Too many things just kept pointing in the same direction for me. Like at the end when Kevin gave out thousands of balls and asked everyone in the audience to find a child in need, and to reach out to them and to make a difference.
When he finished speaking I ran fast because I wanted one of those balls—a ball that I truly believe can change someone’s life. I actually grabbed two, and had no idea how I was gonna stuff one more thing into a bag full of Nu Skin apparel, but I was getting on the plane come hell-or-high-water to get those balls home and to find the child that is looking for them.
Thank you, Kevin Carroll, for continuing to inspire others and to show the world that we have gifts we need to use. I’m lucky because I feel like I still see the world through the eyes of a child, but for those of you that don’t, you will miss things, special things, if you take life so serious all the time. Let your hair down, quit worrying about what everyone will think and live life, inspire those around you and touch someone’s else’s life. When I go home I will share Kevin’s story with my husband, eight-year-old son, and three-year-old daughter. Together as a family we will change some children’s lives within the next year. That is my vow.
It’s now 3:36 am EST, can someone please turn my brain off. Good night.
(One last thing, Kevin is also working with Generation Next and The National Institute for Play. They have empirical research that play is as important as eating, drinking, and sleeping, yet we continue to marginalize it. Mmm… interesting don’t you think?)