We have made it to one of my favorite times of the year. 

No. Not spring— especially not the wet, muddy, often dreary, temperature tease that spring is in Wisconsin. 

I am talking about March Madness

Most of you know that we are a basketball loving family. So, opening weekend of the NCAA tournament is like a holiday for us. We love the excitement of watching countless games (and keeping one sad eye on the Badger in the NIT this year too). We join friends in an annual bracket challenge, and have our own competition between the five of us as well. It is all basketball, all the time. 

And like many of you, I live for a Cinderella Story

According to Wikipedia, a “Cinderella Story” refers to situations in which competitors achieve far greater success than would have reasonably been best expected. There is nothing like watching a underdog keep fighting, even when it is against all odds. I have jumped on many bandwagons cheering on “Cinderella” teams like Davidson, VCU, Florida Gulf Coast, and Loyola Chicago (along with the heart warming story of “basketball nun” Sister Jean). 

When I think about the “definition” of a Cinderella Story, I realize I have heard of many beyond basketball, and even witnessed some that have not gained anything close to the hype or media attention of the NCAA tourney. 

Some of these stories, albeit possible, still appeared like the odds were not in their favor. 

  • A inspiring retired teacher becomes a metastatic breast cancer activist after being diagnosed many years ago, and continues to fight the disease way past her given life expectancy. 
  • A truck driver who wants to inspire others in his profession to embrace movement and so he completes an Ironman triathlon, finishing with seconds to spare.  
  • A introvert friend, with no experience or financial backing, followed a calling to start her own business several years ago has persevered, and will soon make her affordable senior living project a reality. 
  • My cousin, Brady, who worked hard and prayed hard to actualize his dream of playing football for the Badgers, and then in the NFL. 
  • Friends who told me they could “never” run a race or finish a triathlon… doing so with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. 
  • Countless local athletes who realize their dreams to play sports after high school.  
  • A man who has fourteen divorces between his mom, dad, and sister stay invested in and curious about his marriage while being a loving and supportive dad too. 
  • A young woman with three little kids, very limited finances, and literally no swim, bike, or run experience, (or even owned a road bike) finishes Ironman, and later becomes a coach. 

Now, you can most definitely argue that some of these could have “reasonably been [best] expected.” I do still live in an affluent community, in a country where we are blessed to have support and resources. But, I also know that in addition to looking at life through a “zoom out” perceptive, it is important to look within, and at those close to you. To celebrate “achieving far greater success than what would have reasonably been expected”– by YOU. 

It is so easy to take life for granted. For many of us, we have decided along the way that this is where we are “supposed to be.” This week, I urge you to reflect daily on the things you have done, the ways you have grown, the gifts you have been given, the obstacles you have tackled, and the hurdles you have jumped over to be where you are today. This might be your best season of life, or it might be the hardest yet. But regardless, I am guessing you still have many successes to consider. Maybe your Cinderella story of the day was practicing patience or kindness with a “hard to love” person in your life. Maybe it was going for a walk, rather than staying on the couch. Maybe it was sitting down, rather than falling prey to busy-ness. Maybe it was choosing a food that your body was craving, rather than mindlessly giving in to whatever was in front of you. 

These stories don’t have to be newsworthy. We often don’t share them beyond ourselves. But, practicing this kind of gratitude can help us dream bigger. To believe that we can achieve far greater success than would have reasonably been best expected

And, I also think we can all love each other more if we believe that every one of us have Cinderella stories inside of us. 

Keep dancing, my friends.