“Fight! Fight! Fight!” (A 3-minute reading on the boundlessness of spirit, and of boxing on a rooftop.)

When I am away from my Ugandan home and based here in San Diego, I have the privilege of boxing with a sparring partner four or five days a week.  We do so on the rooftop of my 100-year-old building, overlooking the bay and downtown.  We see sailboats bob in the water.  We hear cruise-ships sound their haunting horns as they call passengers aboard, and announce their departures.  We watch the ships slowly navigate through the bay, and out into the amazing Pacific.

It is a surreal experience for me every time I workout up here.  So very far away from the realities in my Ugandan village.  So far from my kids.  So hard for me in many ways.  And yet a refreshment to my soul in other ways.  (I’m just glad I never have to go too long without another extended stay at home in Uganda.)

During a county-wide blackout in San Diego last year, residents of surrounding (higher) buildings were drawn out onto their balconies for the cool breezes, and in the absence of anything else to do.  They watched our sparring, and cheered, “Fight!  Fight!  Fight!”

It was fun.

On the other side of the building is the grand Balboa Park.  Every 15 minutes, the bells ring out from the clock-tower above the California Building.   When we’re boxing, we use the bells as markers to guide our workout.

I’m usually proud of myself at the first 15, grateful that I am not yet too fatigued.  (Boxing is the most intense workout one can get.)  Just before the 30 minute bells, I find myself kind of hoping they’re going to ring out soon.

And by the time the 45 minute bells ring out, I have been praying for them for at least five minutes.   Once the final bells ring out, I find myself elated.  Proud that I put in the work again.  Happy with my accomplishments.  Inspired.

And thrilled to rest.

I’m 38 years old.

I’m excited that I will soon enter my 40’s.

And I find myself wondering if these silly, arbitrary decade-marks in our lifetime aren’t something like the silly, arbitrary bells that ring out from the California Building.

And still we listen for them, look to them—for meaning and guidance.

I have so many impressive mentors and examples in this human experience.  Some are hearing the same bells I’m hearing.  Others heard them years ago.  Others are anticipating them.

Yesterday, I was interviewed on camera by three brilliant undergraduate students.  They plan to use the video to nominate me for an award.  (I’m humbled to even type that last sentence.)

Each of the students is Latin@.  We spoke Spanish and English.  We laughed when I had my “Diva” moments, asking for a certain angle from the camera shot.  (Believe me, once you have seen yourself on camera a certain number of times, you “get” the whole “better-side” or “better-angle” business.) = )

I told them about my kids; stories about these amazing spirits who, in their human experiences, have chosen to call me Daddy.

Huge teardrops formed in the students’ eyes.

“Mira, estoy llorando,” one guy said to the others.  [“Look, I’m crying.”]  He laughed.  Embarrassed.

When the laughter settled, I simply looked at him and said, “Thank you for crying.  Thank you.”

Jesus said to “Weep with those who weep.”  It’s a precious, powerful thing.

I hope I also communicated notions of purpose and social entrepreneurship and the power of partnerships and of active compassion.

But that sincere engagement with virtual strangers—of a different generation, another culture—was like that first 15-minute-bell in a sparring match.  You see, I’m grateful that I am not yet too fatigued.  But I know that in about 30 minutes I’ll be praying for—and rejoicing in…

What comes next.

I don’t mean this to be about age.

I do mean this to be about purpose.  And about grand, beautiful vessels charting out into vast waters.

And about an awareness of the limitations of this human experience…

But also of the boundlessness of our own essence as spirits who must…

Fight!  Fight!  Fight!

For all that matters.

2 Responses to “Fight! Fight! Fight!” (A 3-minute reading on the boundlessness of spirit, and of boxing on a rooftop.)

  1. Suzy
    April 15, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Once again..your writings have touched my soul deeply. Your words are so dense with neaning and magnificiant in “purpose” and life giving. You seem to tear a piece of your heart out and put it on paper to share with others. THANK YOU!

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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