I read a fascinating story in Sunday’s New York Times.
It was the story of a man in a poor Brazilian favela who converted an old decrepit building into a badminton training center that is producing champions.
His son will compete in the Olympics only a few years after picking up a racquet and dozens of other children are training and winning in the midst of poverty, crime and despair.
It was an uplifting story of what my old commission colleague Jon Levinson used to call “a monomaniac on a mission.”
Never ever underestimate what a passionate person can achieve if they believe in their cause and won’t stop until they change the world, or their little corner of it.
And that’s why a dad in Brazil worked for years, scavenged dumps and pushed until he created a place where children could come and learn that they could achieve. It wasn’t about badminton per se, the sport was just a vehicle. The real end game is to instill belief.
That’s what leadership does. It instills belief, uplifts others and speaks relentlessly about possibilities, solutions and a better future. Leadership is empathy. An ability to see and feel what others may need in order to thrive, even if they might not see it (yet) themselves
It’s doubtful that impoverished children in Brazil were sitting around dreaming of playing badminton. But they were certainly in need of someone who cared about them and believed in their futures.
Fortunately, in Boca and Delray, we have been blessed with people who have stepped up and made a difference. Some have worked with children, some have devoted themselves to the arts and culture, others have devoted their lives to bettering a neighborhood or treating addiction.
They are leaders in the purest sense.
I’d love to share a few examples with you.
Tony Allerton and a few other good people founded the Crossroads Club 35 years ago to help those who are in recovery from an array of addictions.
For some it’s drugs. For others it may be food, gambling, alcohol or sex. Tony, a Korean War veteran and all around good guy, has been the heart and soul of the place from the beginning. And he and others at Crossroads do an amazing job. They serve over 900 people a day, an astonishing figure and a blessing to those in need of community, love, understanding and truth.
Tony is something else. Inspiring, positive, warm and caring.
These are the types of people I think Pope Francis referred to during World Youth Day yesterday when he urged people not to succumb to complaining and negativity but instead find ways to care for and help others.
The Pope called negativity a “virus infecting and blocking everything” and said young people must not forget about God in a world of unlimited information.
My friends at CROS Ministries are also amazing. In our community, you may know their work at The Caring Kitchen which for many years has provided food to the hungry in our community. They are remarkable community servants. They serve over 100,000 meals a year, each and every year. Just remarkable.
Fortunately, there are many more examples of the power of visionary leaders to make a difference.
For a while now, there has been a desire to create an entrepreneurial “hot zone” in Delray Beach.
There’s also been a long time desire to jumpstart Congress Avenue and to rejuvenate US 1 and south of the avenue, the Sofa district.
All of this and more is not only possible, it’s probable if the right combination of people, passion and leadership make a choice that it will happen.
If you can create badminton champions in a favela (and teach them movement based on Brazilian dance steps) anything is indeed possible.