Monday, March 24, 2008

Have I Done All I Can?

As a person who doesn't really enjoy watching sports, many people who know me are amused that I love sports movies. I have a large collection of DVDs that are based on the life of sports figures or teams. They are all inspiring and filled with life wisdom and inspiration.

This weekend I watched "Rudy." This movie tells the truth life story of Rudy Ruettiger who dreamed his entire childhood of playing football for Notre Dam. Rudy came from a working class family. The children didn't go to college. The expectation for the boys was to go to work in the mill where all their relatives were employed. Although not addressed directly, my guess is that girls were expected to get married. No other possibilities existed for these kids.

Rudy's family was not supportive of his dream. He was ridiculed and teased. As a young man of small stature, he was not destined to be a great football player. He struggled in school and did not have the grades to get into Notre Dam or any other college.

Rudy was determined, committed and persistent. He had to go against the wishes of his father, leave behind his family and long time girlfriend and leap into the unknown. He went to South Bend to pursue his dream. He was virtually broke and didn't have any idea how he would make his dream come true.

Rudy worked at Notre Dame in the maintenance department while he attended classes at a local community college. His goal each quarter was to transfer to Notre Dame and gain the opportunity to try out for Notre Dame's "prep" practice football team.

I'm touched by all aspects of this story, but two moments stand out to me as the most powerful.

Semester after semester, Rudy applies to Notre Dame and time after time he is rejected. Yet, he continues to struggle, work, study and pray. He gets discouraged but he never gives up. The moment comes when Rudy is applying to Notre Dame for the last time. If this attempt is unsuccessful, his dream will be ended. In a conversation with a priest, he asks a powerful question, "Have I done everything I can?"

Rudy worked as hard as is humanly possible to attain his goal. That's all any of us can do. He did more than most people would ever consider doing in the pursuit of his dream. At some point, however, he had to let go. There was nothing else he could do. He worked as hard as he possibly could, in the face of overwhelming odds and left no stone unturned.

He finally gets the news that he is admitted to Notre Dame. My second favorite scene in the movie is when Rudy goes to the mill to show his father his letter of acceptance to Notre Dame. His father, who did all he could to discourage Rudy, completely beamed with pride. As he folds the letter very carefully and puts it back into the envelope, you can feel the restricted and shackled thinking starting to break apart. The world will never be the same. Not for Rudy, not for his family, not for his little brothers and sisters, not for the kids in his high school and not for all the people in that mill town. Rudy broke the barriers of limited thinking!

Rudy goes on to play on the prep team and in the end is allowed to dress for one game as an official Notre Dame player. He is played at the very end of the game and sacks the opposing team's quarter back.

Rudy's heart, soul and dedication inspired the entire Notre Dame football team. All the players admired and respected Rudy for what he accomplished. At the end of the game in which Rudy played, he was carried off the field by his teammates. NO other player has been carried off the field at Notre Dame since that day.

Rudy shows us all the immense value of persistence and dedication. If we all had a little more 'Rudy' in us... our worlds would look very different!

What's your dream? No matter how big or how small, ask yourself, "Have I done everything I can?" If the answer is no... you still have stones to turn over... and there is hope!

Watching movies like Rudy and reading books about the lives of ordinary people who've accomplished amazing things helps keep us motivated and moving forward with our dreams and goals. Fortify yourself with these wonderful examples and get to it!

"Getting what you want is only a problem if you have nowhere to go next. Dreaming is a lifetime occupation." - Rudy Ruettiger

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