Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's A Choice

B. Stuart Noll

Respect, honesty, caring and responsibility are words the YMCA uses to present the 4 core characteristics of its mission. These four words are also core characteristics of great relationships. One of the many things I enjoy about working here at the Manchester YMCA is the chance to develop new relationships within our community and to observe people interact with each other. It’s a true learning experience and one of the many blessings I receive each week.

Recently, I interviewed Kevin and Laura Hopkins – (photo), two longstanding members here at the Manchester YMCA of Greater Richmond. We sat down together to talk about their relationship with the YMCA - and each other.

Near the end of the interview Laura asked me, “does being married for 21 years count for anything?” Oh my Gosh! Think about this one; I’ll give you the answer later. They have been together for 26 years but their association with the YMCA began approximately in the year 2000. Laura became involved as a Youth Sports Specialist at the Tuckahoe Branch and both have been active in organized sports almost all of their lives either as participants or as a referee/umpire in Laura’s case.

Their story is much more interesting than just a daily workout together. Get to know them, because if you do I assure you, you will be lifted up, as I was and am, by their encouragement, their heart for each other and for the community in which they live and serve.

When I think of respect and caring I think of Kevin and Laura Hopkins. When I imagine couples working out together (something many couples find hard to do) I think of Kevin and Laura. Both of them had obstacles to overcome to stay interested in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It didn’t matter whether it was Kevin’s diagnosis of diabetes or Laura’s injuries, over the years they have continued to support, encourage and love each other. They simply made whatever sacrifices were necessary to help each other heal, grow and stay in the game – and I think both would agree the YMCA was an integral part of their recoveries.

Working out or training 5-6 days a week can become intense no matter how close two people are. Laura said “sometimes the workout became a competition.” Even solid relationships can deteriorate because of constant one-ups-man-ship. But Kevin and Laura respected and cared about each other enough to overcome their intense individual competitiveness by deciding that their lives together were more important than any barrier they could face. Did they stop working out? No! What did they do? They didn’t change their lifestyle, they changed their mindset to honor each other even more and make it fun again. How? They rearranged their schedule, began to get involved at church on Wednesday evenings, made Friday nights a date night and redefined their workout to accommodate the physical and emotional changes in their lives.

All I can say is Wow! What better definition of respect and caring is there than when two very competitive people care enough about their partner’s health to surrender their own egos in order to transcend the complications that life throws at them? Which is exactly why they have been married for 21 years; it is the answer from above (pun intended) and it was a choice. They both chose to put the needs of the other above their own!

Thank you, Kevin and Laura Hopkins, for sharing a piece of your story with all of us and for demonstrating the principles the YMCA says build strong kids, strong families and strong communities.

More Than Weight Loss - Regina Hamlor's Story

B. Stuart Noll

Everyone’s life is its own unique story, a tale of intrigue in so many respects. The whys and wherefores of our lives are sometimes a mystery, often as much to us as they are to family and friends. One thing is certain though – no matter who you are or where you were born, if you’re human and you live on planet earth, we’re connected! Subsequently, we impact each other to one degree or another; consciously or unconsciously, positively or negatively. If the previous statement is true then wouldn’t it be prudent for us to associate with those people who have the most positive impact on us; people who, by virtue of living their lives, help us grow.

I know such a person – one of our members here at the Manchester YMCA - a very unique story and I would like to introduce this person to you. Before I do, imagine one day recognizing that you are grossly overweight, agonizingly short of breath and unknowingly living this life on the threshold between the here and the hereafter. Imagine a day approximately twelve years ago when you had to grab onto the railing with each upward step and you had to stop intermittently to gather your breath as you climbed to enter the Y, so you could work out for just 15 minutes. Imagine saying to yourself “I must take control of my life” or I will be medicated for hypertension (High Blood Pressure) for the rest of my life – however long that’s going to be!

I would like to introduce you to the woman that lived that life, but if I did, it wouldn’t be the one she is today. So let’s start again! In my brief interview with Regina Hamlor I saw a determined, unconquerable spirit of joy from a woman to whom it was revealed that she no longer had to “just hold on” to railings - or to life. Regina told me her story as I asked her why she had come to be a member at the YMCA.

After communicating with her doctor she decided that “just holding on” wasn’t good enough for her anymore. She said she was determined to beat all the statistics that said she couldn’t do it. She was ready for a change; she decided not only to begin but to finish! Over the 12 year period Regina has been a member of the YMCA, more specifically, in the past 5 to 6 years Ms Hamlor has lost in excess of 100 pounds. That’s right, I said over 100 lbs. And she isn’t done yet. Her commitment was to a life-changing experience, not a fad or a flash in the pan. Her history indicates she has what it takes to finish the race. Her doctor removed her from the medication and now when she arrives to work out she is no longer out of breath. She is, instead, invigorated and invigorating!

As a fitness instructor and a budding motivational coach I am fascinated with each individual’s reason for change and what keeps them going; their why, so to speak. It was easy to understand why Regina began a new lifestyle. I also wanted to know why she kept coming back to the YMCA. As she humbly smiled at the thought of answering, Regina quickly responded “It’s like we’re family. Life is not complete without it.”

Another big smile and then, Ms Hamlor pointed out that “it wasn’t just exercise.” There were a number of elements that contributed to her weight loss. She changed her eating habits and memorialized her desired blood pressure reading of 120/80 on her tape player and her refrigerator. She used the power of envisioning to produce her desired end, and she developed enriching, lifelong relationships with people here at the Manchester YMCA that continues to be a huge part of her success, even today.

There is one other enormously important element that Regina relayed during our brief interview. She said, “I prayed every day. The Lord is my source and it is He who receives the glory.”

I learned a lot about Regina Hamlor during our discussion. Over time I have watched her interact with others at the Y; on the bikes; on the mats and on the machines. My conversation with her and the things I learned from her and about her are my reward for this article. I am inspired by her conviction. I believe the adversity and perseverance through hard work enriched her life. When she shares her story it becomes an inspiration to others to make similar life-changing, and sometimes lifesaving changes. Ironically, in that respect, I think she has gained much more than she has lost!

There is something very, very special about her and not just because of her smile or her successful transition to a healthier life. I encourage you introduce yourself to her because I’m sure that if she just speaks her name to you it will be a blessing!

The Manchester YMCA of Greater Richmond has more to offer than just machines. It’s a place where respect, honesty, caring and responsibility are alive – in the place and in the people. Regina has had a positive impact on me, as well as others here at Manchester, and she is one of many inspiring members and stories in our family. We invite you too; to experience the interconnectedness and exhilaration of living a healthy and family oriented life at home and here at the Y!

Thanks for your time and remember;

“Your greatest discovery is yourself and your greatest investment is of yourself in others. The reward is sure. The choice of course, is always yours.” – B. Stuart Noll