Accept the Challenge: An Introduction to Alex Barrett

Alex Barrett, a friend of mine and fellow member of the youth group at church, came to me requesting a spotlight here at One-Way Stop. The following material represents his testimony in the realm of health and fitness, with which I resonate. His feature unearths two active ideals for health: Change. Challenge.

 “January, 2012:

I can say that I was in the worst shape of my life at this current point. I was approaching 200 lbs., and I kept gaining. I had very little muscle to speak of, and I was less than The Rock-like in appearance. I was sad, unhappy with myself and with the life I was living, and I was constantly being picked on at school.

Let’s face it, I was fat. There’s no two ways around that, but I didn’t want to be that way. I wanted to be skinny, like so many of my friends were. One could say I was inspired by my own selfish ambitions to change my ways.

One day, I caught a cold, or something to that extent. I went to my local children’s pediatrician. She treated me, prescribed antibiotics, and told me and my parents the fact we didn’t want to face: I was twice the normal range for kids my age, at that time 14. However, the next bit of information she told us was the key to changing my life undoubtedly forever.

The trainer who owned gym right down the way from the care clinic started a program, and he wanted an adolescent who was overweight to start circuit and weight training. Against my will, I was signed up.

The next week, I began training. I hated it. I was always sweating bullets, out of breath, and struggling with the weights. I wanted to quit so badly. But I didn’t. I kept going. I kept pressing weights. I kept sprinting. I kept running. I didn’t stop.

The first year was the hardest. I lost 30 lbs the first year, but it was hard. Now, I’m not gonna throw the wool over your eyes: it was hard. The hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. I got angry. I got so angry at times that I seriously thought about walking out the door. The pain hurt. The pain made me want to stop. But then I thought to myself: “How bad do I want it?”

I wanted to drop weight with a passion. I wanted to look good. Now, 2014, 50 lbs since when I started in February 2012, I’m here. I still have a ways to go before I can crush cans with my abs, but I’m working.

The point is: I didn’t stop. In the words of Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of my favorite band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers: “Can’t stop, addicted to the shindig.”

I didn’t stop. I was addicted. I still am. I still seek to further my fitness and my appearance. Even when it seems so hard that you can’t go anymore, you have to. A phrase I like to coin to myself a lot is: “How can you get stronger if you don’t accept the challenge?” Set goals. Accept the challenge. As the cliché goes, you can do anything you set your mind to. Nothing is impossible, just as Jesus said. “I can do all things through he who strengthens me.”

 

                             – Alex Barrett”

 

Loving Well: My Influential Women and Wal-Mart – John

Some time ago in Wal-Mart, a concept so simple, so authentic, and so unexpected appeared and reoriented my actions towards others. While standing in the check-out line with my mother, we took notice of an elderly women: she and her choice of hanging-plant were waiting behind us. Considering the number of our items, my mother insisted this women take our place in line, a courtesy to which the matriarch expressed her gratefulness. She proceeded to open her check book to purchase her hanging-plant, except she had misplaced her pen; once more, my mother extended a simple token of courtesy by offering a pen – again, a courtesy to which the matriarch expressed her gratefulness.

Both instances, this elderly women had an odd way of expressing her thankfulness: she was sincere. Despite my mother’s actions being relatively simple, this women responded with the most sincere “thank you.” I counted this as a lesson learned that younger generations have lost the art of gratefulness, or, at the least, expressing gratitude; my mother and I then checked out and returned to our vehicle – where we found the elderly women placing the hanging-plant into her trunk. My mother offered a third extension of grace by taking the women’s cart to the return. This elderly women put forth her most genuine thank you thus far and shared with my mother her experience with cancer: she, at that time, warred against the last stages and dreaded returning her cart. My mother’s simple, authentic, and unexpected actions relieved our new friend of unseen pain.

Le mama of me.

Le mama of me.

My mother actions spurred actions of simple grace within me – it is simple because the recipients neither appear to need it nor is the grace extravagant. My mother did nothing revolutionary or difficult, and she could have just as well held her place in line, let the cashier give the women a pen, and we would have left the parking lot first without ever knowing whom we were parked beside. My mother saved an old lady only five minutes and a scribble of ink, but it granted respite and a smile to someone who may not have even had the courage to express her pain.

Burdens plague everyone; some are positive and some are negative – but nonetheless we are a burdened people. A simple, encouraging gesture can lessen the burdens we share. As I noted, the women at Wal-Mart did not appear to be in great need: she was old, and the soon-to-be-her plant was probably mentally preparing to hang above the lady’s porch- no apparent struggle. Grace is non-discriminatory because it undeserved; simple is non-specialized because anyone can do it – our simple grace is doable and for everyone.