Austin is ten. He has one sister named Meredith and one bird - a parakeet - named Jackson. When he grows up, he wants to be a bull rider. He loves to skateboard and really likes to go to the movies. His favorite movie is Underdog.
I know this because Austin told me. He also told me “You’re probably my best friend.”
“You’re probably mine, too.”
We go skateboarding together. We go to the movies and we go out to eat, too. His favorite food? Steak, cooked medium rare.
“That a kid!” I said when he first ordered it. Our waitress just smiled. She didn’t understand.
Sometimes we train together. Austin can do 13 strict pushups and one chin-up. It’s pretty cool to watch, actually. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
Austin isn’t my brother. He’s just a kid that had the nerve to walk into my training studio - while I was training a client, no less - and introduce himself. “Hi. Do you want to go skateboarding later?” he asked.
“Uh, sure, buddy. Just give me a few minutes and we’ll talk.”
That was four months ago.
Austin starts school again today. He’s nervous but excited. “I’ve got butterflies, but it’s not a big deal,” he told me. His family either can’t afford or doesn’t care about the school lunch menu. He makes his own sandwich and packs it himself, instead.
When he gets dressed in the morning he puts on clothes that are way too big for him and don’t look quite right. “I think it’s made for a girl, but my grandma found it for me,” he replied when I asked him about his pink and black shirt.
“I like it,” I said. “Very cool.”
Austin has parents, but if you asked me, I’d say they weren’t real parents at all. But I don’t concern myself too much with his family matters. I just stay on the edge and watch from afar. For now.
Besides, Austin is confident. He’s strong. He told me so one day in the gym as he lay on the ground. “I’m probably a lot stronger than my dad. Guess how many pushups I can do!”
So why do I hang out with Austin? Is it because I think he needs it? Is it because I want to be a good mentor and friend? Yes and yes.
But mostly I want to give back. I want to help him see what he’s capable of. I want to introduce him to the gym and the glory of challenging himself. And I want to make it fun.
Austin doesn’t understand a lot of things. Then again, neither do I. But I do know how much a positive role model can impact your life. I know that when I was 10 years old, life was hard. I won’t bore you with details, so let’s just say there was no silver spoon. I tasted a bit of rust and blood.
And while I found my ways to express myself - to release and escape - I wish somebody would have taken me to a gym sooner.
I wish someone would have bought me a steak and said I looked cool even though I was wearing a girl’s shirt.
I could have just as easily told Austin to get lost on that first day. I could have rolled my eyes and went back to training my client. But I didn’t.
We all inspire more people than we think we do. There’s always someone watching you. Someone studying you. Someone who wants to be like you and just wants to talk and hang out.
It may not be a ten year old kid like Austin who rips it up on his skateboard and throws a tighter spiral than Steve Young. It could be the skinny guy in the corner who really needs some help on how to lift correctly. It could be the obese girl who just needs someone to give her a little direction. It may be your next door neighbor who struggles to make rent while you live comfortably. It could be a best friend, a family member or even a complete stranger.
It really doesn’t matter.
So keep your eyes open. But most important, keep your heart and mind open. You may find it changes both of you.