The Ripple Effect

One of my favorite parables is the story a young man walking up a beach on which hundreds of starfish have washed up. When he happens across an older gentleman tossing starfish back into the sea, the young man asks why the old man is bothering even attempting to save the starfish- even if he worked all day throwing starfish back into the ocean, the old man couldn’t possibly hope to rescue even half of them, much less all of them. As the old man calmly threw another starfish back into the ocean, he replied “No, I can’t save them all. But I did help that one.”

I used to love flying- there is something about altitude that can put the world in perspective for you. These days, flying can be depressing… there are very few places that so readily display America’s obesity epidemic like an airport can. It pains me to watch morbidly obese families shoveling spoon fulls of sugary carbohydrates into their diabetic mouths, especially as they set the example for their children. I’m often overwhelmed at the vastness of this issue- the deathly grip of the overweight, sedentary lifestyle has wrapped its icy fingers so tightly around our American culture, that it can seem absolutely futile to even attempt to make a difference. There are so many Americans unhealthy and overweight at this point, how much can one person really do to change anything?

As I stood in the doorway of ABV this weekend, surrounded by my athletes, my friends, my family, my community, I was able to trace it all back to a single action. All of it- all of the fitness, all of the results, all of the equipment, all of the sweat, all of the laughter- the entire day… it could all be trace back through one series of events. Chrissy Catoe, of CrossFit Rock Hill, talked Mark Harris, a good friend and fraternity brother of mine, into trying CrossFit. After running a relay race with me, Mark, in turn, talked me into finding a CrossFit box near my house in Charleston, SC- which turned out to beCrossFit Discovery Downtown. Once Robert Van Newkirk had me addicted to the program, all it took was another fraternity brother experienced with CrossFit, Andy Edwards, to suggest opening up a box in Fort Mill.

From there, the idea that was ABV has grown and blossomed into this beautiful family of athletes that continue to amaze me with their dedication and support of one another. I’ve watched as one by one, family members, friends, and complete strangers have stepped up to taste the Kool Aide. What Chrissy didn’t realize when she tossed Mark into this sea of fitness is the ripple effect that her action would have. As Mark influenced those around him, Chrissy’s action was not only perpetuated, but multiplied. And as the ripples continued to expand, the number of lives changed for the better exploded from a seemingly inconsequential handful to an entire community that has decided that health and fitness are at the top of their family’s priority list.

Getting one friend or family member started on this lifelong fitness journey can seem can seem meaningless, especially as the tide wave of sugar in our society delivers more and more obesity’s doorstep every single day. But it DOES matter, especially for that one individual that you help. And there is no way of knowing the ripple effects of that one life you’ve changed might have as they expand and grow- sometimes a small pebble can trigger a massive waterfall.

The sum of all the ripples we’ve created can be viewed through a wider lens- we aren’t here to change lives, we’re here to change a culture.