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.

No comments: