MAKING A DIFFERENCE THE ‘RAIN MAN’S’ VICTORY LAP Have you ever taken the time to examine your life and ask yourself what you life is about…who you REALLY are beneath the labels that you present to the world? Have you ever asked yourself those questions about yourself—and do you REALLY want to know? We don’t realize until later in life how fleeting it all is, and we miss so much of it by going through the motions of living without ever truly understanding the journey, or its purpose. Most times those questions and that wisdom comes out of brokenness. I once commented to my sister after a terrible personal crisis and rebirth that I would not have built a new house “if the old one had not burnt down.” Out of the ashes of our lives can come so much new birth, so much wisdom…but it always seems to be loss or crisis that precipitates that gift. And yet we always resist the alleged ‘fall from grace’ that so often becomes the beginning of our REAL truth. Humble beginnings are more often the stuff of shame rather than the badge of honor they truly are—the oven that fires our strength and integrity and the grit that ultimately is at the core of all true greatness and human victory. I speak of my own journey and the things I judged as my ‘warts’ and flaws and the sources of my personal shame…the same ones that ultimately became bricks I the foundation of my ultimate life of truth. That is a journey and a truth that I humbly share with the hero of our story, Eric Crookshank. Most will immediately recognize that memorable name as the great Canadian basketball player, but here is some history from Wikipedia to spark your memory: Eric Lamont Crookshank (born November 13, 1978) is an American professional basketball player who last played for the Saint John Mill Rats of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL). He was previously known as one of the most prominent members of the Halifax Rainmen, who played in the Canadian league as well as the Premier Basketball League (PBL) and the American Basketball Association (ABA). After announcing retirement in 2012 with the Rainmen, he became the first NBL Canada player to have his jersey retired. However, he returned to the league in 2013, when he started competing for the Mill Rats. Since joining the Rainmen, Crookshank is often nicknamed “Air Canada” due to his slam dunking capabilities. Wikipedia gives us the summary of Eric’s life…but there is SO much more to learn. Let’s dig a little deeper to really get to know this man. Eric is actually American-born (Berkley CA—at Alta Bates Hospital). His mom struggled with an addiction to crack-cocaine and his hero cum paramour dad was a revered street basketball player but was also a ‘player’ off the court as well— with both other women and as a local drug dealer. His dad was into the street life and fast money, often leaving his family alone for long periods of time. Eric grew-up in the turbulent 80’s—when the scourge of drugs begin to overtake inner-city neighborhoods and gave birth to a level of violence and depravity that no one could have imagined or foreseen. It was a blight from which inner-city neighborhoods have yet to recover. Eric was bullied as a child because he was so much taller than other kids his age (that will become a huge factor in his later life, so take note). Imagine adding bullying at school to what he was going through at home…that is a lot of trauma for a young child to absorb. But what none of us can know when we are children—and what Eric could not know then—is that he had taken the best from each of his parents and intended to go the distance with those qualities. The oven that fired Eric’s resolve was challenge and rejection and hurt…but he used the things that could have destroyed him to help to make him stronger. According to Eric, “Growing up in California was a very depressing situation especially when you grow up behind the 8-ball. We didn’t have the resources but I made the best of it… I decided to let my visions lead the way!!!” We can ALL do that. Despite the odds, Eric went-on to graduate from Hogan Senior High School in Vallejo CA in 1997 and was ultimately scouted by the CEO of the Halifax Rainmen basketball team, who offered this young and hungry athlete a financial package he “could not refuse.” Eric subsequently travelled the world playing a game he loved—called basketball. Eric built a career entertaining millions with his talent, big smile and kind heart; but the thing for which he most wants to be known and remembered is how he has used his celebrity to shine light on a bigger social issue: bullying…and helping children who suffer as he once did when he was growing-up. Eric decided to retire from basketball at the top of his game, and launched his nonprofit, ‘Bench Bullying’ in 2014. The goal of his program is “to help those affected by bullying,” and Eric is proud to say that the program has “already surpassed my goals.” Since launching the program, Eric has spoken to over 430 schools, and now is proud to say that “the Bench Bullying organization a household name in places such as Atlantic Canada, Florida, Texas, New York, California to name but a few of our locations.” Eric has made this project a total team effort, and claims that the program “really picked-up speed once other sport figures got involved.” The goal of the program is to be a part of the fabric of the community “through our volunteers, our coaches, and sports teams. We are able to help our community thrive and unite through motivational speaking, our sports teams, emotional support, and various community events,” Eric states. The Bench Bullying approach to bullying is unique. There is an inherent understanding that BOTH the bully and the victim are victims. Both need understanding and emotional support because they are both emotionally damaged and just expressing it in different ways—one as the aggressor and the other as the defeated victim of abuse. BOTH have love self-esteem and low self-value and have no place to go to heal those feelings. Bench Bullying addresses BOTH ‘victims’ because they believe that “meaningful change cannot occur until all parties involved have the tools and resources required for a positive change.” BB works to help build and repair damaged self-esteem by “providing inclusive environments so everyone affected in a case of bullying,” and “to give them both/all a sense of security and belonging. “ That insight ALONE is revolutionary in the world of social change. There is a tendency to condemn the bully when they are also badly in need of understanding and help. Eric Crookshank is to be commended for using his celebrity to create positive change in the world. He is a role model for his own two children, as well as young people worldwide. This fall, Eric is taking his life-altering message on the road and will be speaking in Florida, California, and Texas. His goal is to make Bench Bullying “a household name all over the world,” and to help create a peer support group for kids among the other kids in school so they can both prevent bullying and help support other kids they see being bullied. Use Eric Crookshank as an example of how to be a home-grown hero in YOUR family, YOUR community, YOUR industry and YOUR life. Always remember the Golden Rule: “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Be a voice for those who do not have one. You CAN make a difference!