Photo: Getty Images
To kick off the New Year, I wanted to share a story about a man who everyone should resolve to be like. Shortly after my retirement from aerial skiing, I was elected to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council. At my very first meeting, I was fortunate to hear a distinguished Olympic guest talk about a program he’d started to help the most disadvantaged children in the world.
He told us about a young girl so traumatized by seeing both her parents killed in the Rwandan genocide that she became mute. She had, in fact, hidden under their bodies so she wouldn’t be killed herself. After being encouraged to take part in this Olympian’s sports and activity programs, the young girl finally uttered her first words in two years: “Pass me the ball.”
Upon hearing the heart-wrenching story, I immediately knew that I wanted to—no, had to—get involved. Since that day, I have become one of their most avid volunteers. I found that giving back to those in need has filled my life with much greater meaning.
There is a quote I like by Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know—the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve." One person I know is happy is that Olympic hero who started this phenomenal, charitable organization, and who has become one of my closest friends: Johann Olav Koss…
Johann Koss’s Story
(Story from When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out)
I must have looked deep in thought, or as deep in thought as an eleven-year-old can, when my grandmother glanced up from her weeding to ask, “You have something on your mind, don’t you?”
“Yes, I was thinking that someday I want to be an Olympic speedskating champion like my hero, Eric Heiden, I want to be a doctor like my parents and I want to help children in Africa.”
I immediately knew I had confided in the right person when a knowing smile broke across her face. “Johann, of course!