Saturday, September 27, 2014


By Antoinette Rainone

     What comes before every big hit, before every big play at shortstop? 
     A small prayer. 
     He prays before he gets to the ballpark. 
     He prays before he gets to the dugout. 
     He prays before he gets up at bat. 
     He prays on the field before the opposing team gets up at bat. 
     Derek Jeter prays.   
     With the cameras constantly on Derek Jeter during Thursday's last home game of his amazing Yankee career, you couldn't help but notice how many times he'd kneel, bow his head, and close with the sign of the cross.
     "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."Philippians 4:13. 
     Derek Jeter knows where his power, strength, talent, and victories come from. And it's his humbleness that has made Jeter a truly great captain of the New York Yankees. 
     A colleague of mine told me she has relatives who attend the same Roman Catholic parish that Derek Jeter's family belongs to. Every Christmas, they see Derek Jeter at Midnight Mass. There are no cameras, no fanfare. Just one man out of hundreds, sitting in the back of the church, coming to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world.  
     As a child growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and spending summers with his grandparents in New Jersey, Jeter's one unwavering dream was to be the short stop of the New York Yankees. 
     "I've been pretty blessed. This is always what I wanted to do," Jeter told the hosts of the TV show Close Encounter. "But I appreciate everything that's happened. I don't take anything for granted."
    And he didn't take the last Yankee home game of his 20-year career for granted either. 
    Top of the ninth, the Yankees were winning 5-2. But the Baltimore Orioles are a darn good team...and they tied it. 
    Bottom of the ninth. Brett Gardner gets a hit. The stage is set for Derek Jeter.
    Derek kneels. He bows his head, prays, and closes with the sign of the cross.
    Time to face the pitcher. Man on second. 
    He HITS the ball! OVER the heads and into right field! DEREK DRIVES IN GARDNER TO SCORE THE WINNING RUN! THE YANKEES WIN!   
     And it isn't just any win. It is a game-winning RBI, in the bottom of the ninth, by the man who is playing the last game of his illustrious career in pinstripes.  
    Later, Derek Jeter told reporters he was happy with a broken bat and a run scored in the seventh inning.  
    "I was happy with that being the end," Jeter said. "But I'll take this one."
     And that really is the point. Derek Jeter would have been happy to have won the game in a modest way with a broken bat. But God had other plans.
     How many times does the game of life mirror a baseball game? Have we ever prayed for something, only to have God answer our prayers in a way totally beyond our wildest dreams? 
     Yankee fan or not, this win seemed to transform everyone. It was a test of faith. Everyone thought the game was a done deal going into the ninth. But sometimes the unexpected happens. And we are reminded: Never take anything for granted. Never lose hope. Keep the faith.
       "If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31.
      Find your wings ... at any age.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


      Reeva Steenkamp was supposed to talk to a group of young teenage girls at Sandown High School in Johannesburg, South Africa. She had titled her notes, Placing Value on You. She wanted to tell them: Accept who you are. There is no room for abusive relationships in your lives.
      But at 3 a.m. – several hours before Reeva was due to deliver her message on Valentine’s Day, 2013  – she was gunned down in a tiny bathroom she had locked herself in – killed at the hands of her intimate partner, Oscar Pistorius.
      Tragically, Reeva’s life, and death, would become the message.
      “Be brave. Always see the positive,” Reeva wanted to tell them. “Being loved by others, although an amazing feeling to have the appreciation of others, does not define your place in the world.”
       Reeva was finding her wings. By age 28, she had earned a law degree and had become a model and rising television star. She didn’t have to devote her time talking to a group of teenage girls. She wanted to because she never forgot who she was or where she came from.
       “I was raised on a small farm just outside of Cape Town,” Reeva wanted to tell them. Her family didn’t have money, and yet she was blessed with amazing parents who never allowed me to be aware of my circumstances.
       “In a way I was blessed and privileged to be away from the pressures of city life and I grew up to appreciate the simpler things above the superficial.” 
      Reeva didn’t let the lack of finances deter her, ever. She wanted to tell them that hard work always accompanies big dreams.
     “After moving to Port Elizabeth and deciding to study Law despite our financial situation, I worked hard to be acknowledged as one of the top 15 percent academics at university so that my studies could be 80 percent covered by bursaries and I worked to pay off the rest.”
      Reeva wanted to tell them about the adversities she faced and conquered.
      “I broke my back towards the end of varsity. Learnt mobility again and made a massive life decision with regards to my career.
      There was so much Reeva wanted to tell them. She wanted to share the life lessons she had learned along the way – including her vulnerable side.
     I was in an abusive relationship at the same time and all together these factors encouraged my move to JOZI [slang in South African for Johannesburg]. Despite my height disadvantage and the difficulty in general of breaking into the modeling industry, I put my head down and worked hard towards my dream ... it took some serious soul searching to remind myself of my value in this world.
       Reeva wanted to inspire these young women to dream big and work hard to achieve their goals.
       “Accept who you are. Acknowledge your absolute CAN DOS in life and work on your MAYBES so that you can be a better person for the ultimate upliftment of those around you.
       Above all, Reeva wanted to tell them to love themselves.
      “No matter how many people say that they ‘love’ you, if you do not love your person then you will never step outside of the physical you. The physical you can only do so much if your mental you is lost inside of all the confusion.
       Looking ahead to when her modeling career would end, Reevas next big dream in life was to use her law degree and open a firm with her close friend, Kerry Smith, to help abused women. 
        I suspect Kerry may fulfill Reevas dream someday and open such a firm. This would certainly keep the flame of Reevas message burning bright. 
      Make your voice heard, your physical seen. It’s that culmination of your person that will leave a legacy and uplift. 
       R.I.P., Reeva Steenkamp. Women around the world PLACE VALUE ON YOU!

Monday, September 1, 2014


We've got an awful lot to live for


     Unless you’ve had a, well, bucket or something over your head, you’ve surely noticed The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS being splashed all over social media. The number of people getting doused in icy water this summer has been nothing short of astounding, from celebrities to former presidents to our kids on the block. 
     Through this, attention to ALS – amyotrophic lateral schlerosis – has been renewed. The ALS Foundation has reportedly received 94 million dollars from the challenge. Despite what contrarians say, the numbers speak for themselves. The ice bucket challenge has been a phenomenal success.

     ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in honor of the great Yankee first baseman who succumbed to the deadly degenerative nerve disease at age 37. 
     Ironically, this year marks the 75th anniversary of No. 4's iconic speech, respectfully commemorated at Yankee Stadium on July 4.

     The most striking aspect of his farewell-to-baseball speech -- recited by a man who knew he was dying -- is that it is full of OPTIMISM! Although Gehrig had no choice but to retire from baseball, he did have a choice whether or not to be truly defeated in the game of life.   
     Lou Gehrig chose not to be defeated. All of us can gleam important lessons from Gehrig’s words…

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. 
     Gehrig’s bad break did not deter him from considering himself the “luckiest man on the face of this earth.” Gehrig chose to face his bad break and confront it head on.

     Next, Gehrig chose to state why he was so lucky, despite the ALS that would inevitably kill him.

     “I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

     Gehrig chose to list the people in his life whom he values.

     “Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? 
      Sure, I'm lucky. 
      Who wouldn't consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball's greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? 
      Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? 
     Sure, I'm lucky.

     Gehrig chose to talk about the wonderful things that have happened to him for which he is so grateful:

     “When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that's something.
     “When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies - that's something. 
     “When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter – that’s something. 
     “When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body - it's a blessing. 
     “When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed - that's the finest I know.

      Finally, Gehrig qualifies his “bad break with an amazing statement:

     “So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.”

     Gehrig was an Iron Horse on the field, but he was an even greater one off the field. Faced with a terminal illness, he proclaimed: I've got an awful lot to live for.”
     We can all gain inspiration from Gehrig. Whatever we’re going through, let's recall Gehrig's words. In fact, why dont all of us get in the habit of doing this everyday?

     Heres my own version of the ice bucket challenge. I call it the nice bucket challenge.

     Get an empty bucket. Fill it with NICE things. Fill it with personal reflections and mementos, inspired by Gehrig:

*  I consider myself the luckiest person on the face of this earth because …. 
    Recall all the amazing things that have happened in your life, like Gehrig did. Write them down on pieces of paper, and fill your bucket.

*  When [blank happened], that’s something.  
    Make a list of all the that's somethings in your life, the circumstances that youve been blessed with, like Gehrig did. Write them down on pieces of paper, and fill your bucket.

*   Sure, I’m lucky ... Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known … 
    Recall the people in your life who have had an amazing impact on you, like Gehrig did. Write down their names on pieces of paper, and a few words on why they are so special. Fill your bucket.

       Keep your bucket in a special place where you can be alone with your thoughts. Feel free to decorate your bucket, too. Fill it with all things nice from your life -- words, photos, souvenirs and mementos. Fill it anytime and fill it often. And if you have a friend who is going through a tough time, challenge him or her to do the Nice Bucket Challenge.    
        After a while, well begin to notice our buckets are not so empty anymore. Because we've got an awful lot to live for.

       Find your wings … at any age.