If you're looking for something to cheer you up, look no further than Erin Cafaro and her teammates' golden achievement at the Olympics. Not only because of what they've accomplished, but because of all the Olympics are saying about our world today.
On a recent news show, I heard that Netflix viewership is down more than 20 percent and NBC, to its surprise, now expects to turn a profit from the event. The message? People are watching the Olympics. And I don't think it's just because they can view them over multiple mobile devices.
I believe that it is because people are hungering for positive news in so many ways. Even as people during the Depression flocked to theaters to watch Shirley Temple overcome tragic events to succeed, so are people clustering about the TV or computer to cheer on genuine heroes.
Whether it's national Olympians such as Michael Phelps or hometown achievers like Cafaro, behind these incredible athletes are amazing stories of determination, dedication and sacrifice in pursuit of a dream.
How refreshing after the daily doses we get of corporate greed, where the end justifies the means. Or those we hear about who feel entitled to pay, benefits or other rewards without having to earn them. Or the train-wrecked celebrities. Look at how negative shows that ridicule, denigrate and present people's worst sides dominate the airwaves. How sad that success is often now a measurement of the negative vs. positive actions.
In many ways, our Olympians personify what today often seem like lost ideals. Years of commitment, thousands of hours of practice, often training away from friends and family in pursuit of a dream in which within the space of a few minutes, they may have a chance to strut their talent.
Note that I say "may." It's not guaranteed they'll even make the Olympics, much the less medal. Yet the stern stuff of which these rugged men and women are made harkens back to the pioneers and visionaries who settled this country and took it to greatness. They did this with a strong work ethic, a belief in members of communities supporting each other, and an understanding that success doesn't just come by magic, but because you have to want it bad enough to work for it.
It takes an incredible internal imperative to get up day after day and relinquish the many things most of us take for granted. Time with family and friends. Taking vacations. Eating desserts. Instead they practice, practice, practice, polishing themselves to diamond brilliance. Pushing beyond endurance to set new personal bests, they have chosen to journey on a path that only those who carry an inner torch can achieve. Is it any wonder we marvel at them, cheer them on?
As the Olympics wind to a close, perhaps, although most of us won't be pulling off amazing athletic feats, we can bring a bit of the Olympian's determination and energy to succeed back into our daily lives. Because instead of our daily feeding at the trough of the dark and depressing, we need to celebrate the positive and the good in ourselves and our communities. Now that's a gold medal worth striving for.
Newcorn is an author and freelance writer living in Modesto. Contact her at email@example.com.