Have you ever experienced the painful emotions of feeling discouraged and hopeless? It can happen to anyone, at times, because there’s some stress, fear and sadness in the world. We see how people are divided and the news media reminds us of the negativity.
We thought more about the role of faith and hope in life after hearing Dick Beardsley, a world-famous marathon runner. He’s also a prescription drug addiction survivor, who spoke in our community recently. Sponsored by the Chaska Police Department, Beardsley spoke to 1,500 students at Chanhassen High School, and then to another group of people at the Chaska Community Center. With laughter and tears, we enjoyed hearing his poignant message of hope and faith.
Beardsley became famous for his 1982 Boston Marathon, where he and Alberto Salazar both broke the American marathon record. Salazar came in first with a time of 2:08:51 and Beardsley finished second, a mere 1.6 seconds later.
In subsequent races, Beardsley had some injuries, so he took time off to build his dairy farm. There he suffered a tragic accident in 1989. His body got entangled in farm machinery. Everyone wondered if he would even survive. After that, he also had several other accidents requiring 30 surgeries. He ended up addicted to prescription pain medications.
He gained sobriety on Feb. 12, 1997, but his resolve was tested in October 2015 when his son, Andy, who served in Iraq and had PTSD, committed suicide. Beardsley kept his sobriety through that tragedy.
His autobiography, written with Maureen Anderson, “Staying the Course: A Runner’s Toughest Race,” tells of many challenges he faced and overcame, including his addiction. In his book, he said he hoped to someday speak to young people about chemical awareness to help them avoid getting addicted. Now he is certainly fulfilling that purpose.
After Beardsley’s speech in Chaska, we interviewed about him how he remained so hopeful and resilient with the many challenges he’s had in his life. He said, “I’ve been very blessed for as long as I can remember, with just waking up in the mornings with a very positive attitude about things, no matter what’s happening. I thank the good Lord about that. The biggest part is just my faith that has helped me through amazing difficulties in my life. I don’t know what I would do without it. That’s pretty much, in a nutshell, what has helped me through the different things that have happened in my life — my big, big faith!”
We asked him what he wanted to say to others who might be facing challenges or addiction. Beardsley shared, “The biggest thing is that you’ve got to hang in there with the people that you love, whether you are the person going through the addiction or the problem or somebody else, a loved-one — just hang in there with them. Be with them and help them through the difficult times and know that there’s always hope. That’s what I base a lot of my things on is that hope. They say you can live 40 days without food, seven days without water, a few minutes without breathing, but you can’t live one second without hope. If you hang on to that, it will help get through the days.”
Then we asked Beardsley if there was another message he wanted to get out to the world. He replied, “I’ll leave people with something I try to do every single morning when I wake up. It’s very easy to do and I’ve done it for years and years. It has always helped me to get through those difficult times. What I do is, I try to wake up with a smile on my face, enthusiasm in my voice, joy in my heart and faith in my soul. Those four things have helped me through some very difficult times and they might just help folks out there also.”
We agree that those are good ways to start each day. With his positive outlook, Beardsley and his wife, Jill, now enjoy owning and operating Bemidji Bed & Breakfast.
What about you? What can you do to have hope and faith to meet challenges in your life?
Here are some ideas: If you are facing some challenges, even addiction, hang on to faith and hope. A decision to get help can change your life. The Serenity Prayer can also be helpful with many challenges. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Wise words for life!