In 2007, I was living in Moscow, Russia, playing professional basketball for Dynamo. It was a Friday morning and I had finished packing two bags for an important game in Italy the following night. In the first bag, I packed my clothes, DVD player, movies, headphones and hygiene products. In the second bag, I packed the important stuff for the game; shoes, socks, uniform.
We lived in a housing development 20 minutes from the Kremlin. One of our closest friends had three boys who spent many hours in our home playing with our two boys. Their oldest child was 8 years old, he was outgoing, funny and a prankster. His name was Cyrus.
As I said goodbye to my family, Cyrus had a smile on his face and said with a chuckle, “See you, Travis. Good luck." Of course, I thought nothing of it.
I left and flew off to Italy and slept in the hotel that night. We woke up, ate breakfast, watched video of our opponent and prepared for the big game that would be played at 7 that night.
At 5 p.m. we loaded the bus and began the long, quiet, tense drive to the arena. Everyone was silent and focused. We pulled up to the arena with thousands of fans screaming and waving their handmade posters in support of their team. After we made our way to the locker room and began to dress I was stunned as I opened my bag that should have contained my shoes, socks and uniform. I found my uniform and socks, but the shoes were missing. I looked everywhere, but they were gone.
For a split second I wondered if I had forgotten to pack my shoes. As I pulled toys, legos, and diapers from the bag I remembered, “Cyrus!”
I was mad and worried that I wouldn’t be able to play the game and didn’t know what to do. That feeling soon left me as teammate Bostjan Nachbar, seated next to me, began to laugh hysterically and suggested, “You better go ask Doc to find you some shoes.”
Luckily, our team doctor asked the other team for an extra pair of shoes and I was able to play the game.
This story made me think of all the challenges that come into our lives every single day.
Are we prepared for them? How will we react to them?
Sometimes we are dealt a stack of cards we do not want. Many times we don’t have time to prepare for the challenges or trials that lie ahead. But we do have the choice of how we will react.
A more serious story that holds a similar lesson is about a group of teenagers that bought a turkey using a stolen credit card nearly six years ago.
The group was driving around when one of them, Ryan Cushing, decided to throw it from the moving vehicle’s window.
Unfortunately for Victoria Ruvolo, she was right in its path.
"I was one block from my house," she recalled. "I didn’t wake up for almost a month."
The woman's face had to be completely rebuilt after she was hit by the frozen 20-pound turkey.
Still, she chose to forgive her assailant.
Ruvolo, whose survival was described by doctors as a "miracle," was kept in a medically enduced coma for almost a month, endured many surgeries and now has three titanium plates in her face.
Despite her brush with death, Ruvolo pleaded for mercy on behalf of Cushing, who received just six months in jail, followed by five years probation.
"If I hadn’t let go of that anger I’d be consumed by this need for revenge," she said. "Forgiving him helps me move on."
"I told him, 'Just do something with your life' and then I hugged him."
Ruvolo, who now volunteers with a probation department, has kept her sense of humor despite her ordeal.
"I’m trying to help others, but I know for the rest of my life I’ll be known as The Turkey Lady," she added. "Could have been worse. He could have thrown a ham. I’d be Miss Piggy!"
An amazing story of a woman who was prepared for any challenge or trial that came her way.
The two events made me wonder: Would I have forgiven the young teenager? Am I holding a grudge? Am I weighed down by difficulties that have come into my life?
You can choose to be like Victoria Ruvolo, I told myself.
Some of us are born into or fall into difficult circumstances. We are neglected, abused and even left alone. But we can all shake off that which consumes us, be happy with who we are, take control of our lives, thoughts, actions, and start down the path of true healing and forgiveness.
We all have had sorrows, heartaches, worries, sadness and pains. We have had unfair things happen to us.
We can all get past the point of blaming others. We can gain knowledge, experience, self confidence and obtain the true joy, peace and happiness that we seek.
Dr. Robert Anthony said, “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”
When we are faced with trials, and we all are, we have two choices: Either become better or let it destroy us.
Blaming others is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find in others, it will not change you.
If you take your life into your own hands, what happens? Something special: there is no one to blame.
So, where does the power lie?
Travis Hansen is a former BYU, NBA (Atlanta Hawks) and Euroleague basketball player. He co-founded the Little Heroes Foundation and is married with three children.
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