You Can Start Over Anytime
Ernestine Shepherd was 56 when she started exercising for the first time IN HER LIFE. Encouraged to pursue physical fitness by her sister Violet, who was afraid that Ernestine’s love of cake and other junk food would spell a premature death, she began a workout regimen that has evolved into a 10-mile daily walk, followed by hours of weight-lifting. In 2010, she was named the world’s oldest bodybuilder; she continues to train to run half marathons.
It’s tempting to associate the beginning of January with a fresh start – a fresh start that turns into dust and ashes around January 17, the first time you splurge on chocolate cake, miss a workout, or buy a pack of cigarettes.
And the truth is, whether it’s January 17th, April 2nd, or August 24th, just because we fall down, it doesn't mean we can’t get back up and start right over again.
In the rooms of AA, it is often said one only needs to do two things, “Don’t drink; go to meetings,” which is immediately followed by the disclaimer, “And if you can’t do both, go to meetings.” This underscores the fundamental idea that it’s not about how many times we get knocked down, but how many times we get back up again. Robert Downey, Jr. was once considered “uncastable”, he was so addicted to drugs and alcohol. As he told a judge, just prior to being sentenced to 36 months in prison (he served a year), “It’s like I have a shotgun in my mouth and I've got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.” And yet, today, after 15 years of sobriety, RDJ is considered one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars.
History is littered with the names of those who kept trying over and over before they hit it big, made a mark, found their place. Harland Sanders was "a failure who got fired from a dozen jobs before starting his restaurant, and then failed at that when he went out of business and found himself broke at the age of 65," according to one account. But then things worked out when he sold the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in 1952. Ray Kroc was over 50 when he bought his first McDonald’s. Duncan Hines was 55 when he wrote his first food and hotel guide, and didn’t license his name to be used with cake mixes until he was 73.
Though many of these people are famous now, the truth is that they are people just like you and me – people who have failed, people who have lost everything, people who might very easily give up and fade away. But something about all of these people made them pick themselves up and start again, whatever day of the year it was. Some divine spark kept them going, and by keeping on keeping on, they all found a new life far from the dark valley of failure. I could say that these and people like them are my heroes, but what I pray for myself and for all of you today is that we make them our examples instead, and by so doing we choose to shrug off the failure of a career, a marriage, a recovery from addiction, or a weight-loss plan, and begin again. Because a new year, and a new life, can begin anywhere on the calendar.
With many blessings for your very own New Year's Day,