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Beating the Odds

How to be a hero

Heroes come in all packages. This one arrived on this date 98 years ago. He was born into a family of sharecroppers, and received the name of Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
No one would have seen this baby and guess that he would change the world. There was no neon sign above his home saying that a star lived inside.
Greatness doesn’t arrive that way. Greatness arrives in decisions that people make. And Robinson’s decisions, in his short life of 53 years, provide that you don’t need to fly or wear a colorful costume to be a hero.
“A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer,” said Novalis, a poet who lived in Germany in the 18th century.
Said American writer Joseph Campbell, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Both quotes fit Robinson like, pardon the expression, a baseball glove. In breaking the color barrier in big-league baseball in 1947, he faced obstacles no other player did. Opponents tuned him. Some Brooklyn Dodgers teammates threatened to go on strike. His wife Rachel heard the most grotesque obscenities in the stands when she watched him play.
Yet Robinson had made the decision. He promised then-Dodgers boss Branch Rickey that he would not fight back against the taunts, knowing that the entire future of African-American ballplayers was riding on his conduct. It was a high-stakes game and, “Above anything else, I hate to lose,” he said.
And in the most significant battle of his life, he did not lose. He kept his composure, living by the decision he had made.
Your life is just like Robinson’s in the sense that your decisions are your destiny. Each day the choices that you make add up to what you will accomplish and how you will be remembered.
“The way I figured it,” Robinson said, “I was even with baseball and baseball with me. The game had done much for me, and I had done much for it.”
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s entry into the big leagues. Over that time his decision has created opportunities for many other people. No one can know for sure what impact your decisions will have. All that’s certain is that their sum will determine what you achieve and how you will be remembered.

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