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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Are you a believer?

John Eggers

I recently read this passage in a devotional book for teachers. "The best way to inspire people to superior performance is to convince them by everything you do and by your everyday attitude that you wholeheartedly support and believe in them."

The passages are a prelude to a story about Elizabeth Barrett Browning and several other prominent people you will recognize. Some time in our high school career all of us read Browning's iconic poem, "How much do I love thee?" I remember when my aunt died of MS at a relatively young age I sent a card to my uncle in which I referenced this poem.

Elizabeth Barrett grew up among 11 children who were ruled by a dominant father. She was a sad and sickly child who became a sad and sickly adult. When you look at children like Elizabeth you often wonder how they ever can find happiness let alone fulfillment. In today's world a similar child might easily turn to drugs or commit some violent crime or even take her own life. We read about these stories daily.

She began writing poems at the age of 4 and by the age of 6 she was reading novels. In later life Elizabeth's poems attracted the admiration of writer Robert Browning whom she met when she was 40. Browning saw what no one else saw. He saw a beautiful woman who had an exceptional talent for writing. After many confrontations with her father, he eventually won her hand.

Following the wedding she was disinherited by her father, which must have been very disheartening. The couple moved to Italy in 1846, where she would live for the rest of her life. They had one son, Robert Barrett Browning. It was on the birth of her son that she wrote her poem "How much do I love thee." She died in Florence in 1861.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning found greater success and happiness because her husband supported her and, more important, believed in her.

You have heard of Wall Drug, right? Who hasn't? Ted and Dorothy Hustead moved to Wall, S.D.,in 1931. He was a druggist in a town that was, you could say, out in the sticks. They had an idea on how to attract more customers. They decided to advertise free ice water. Many people gave away free water but no one advertised it. It was a good idea and now, in the words of the late Paul Harvey, you know the rest of the story. Today over a million people stop annually at Wall Drugs.

Ted and Dorothy Hustead had a good idea, believed in it and were relentless in promoting it.

Elizabeth Kenny had no formal training in nursing but she was able to talk her way into the Australian military and serve as a nurse. She earned the title "Sister," an Australian military title given to the chief nurse.

Sister Kenny thought of a new way to treat victims of polio. She thought it was best to use hot packs and encourage gentle movement on limbs that had been temporarily paralyzed by the virus, which revolutionized the treatment of polio. Prior to using this method doctors put splints and braces on affected limbs.

She came to the United States in 1940 and experienced opposition to her methods by American doctors. In Minnesota, however, doctors listened and were very interested in her new technique. The Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis exists today as a testimony to her dedication and innovation.

Sister Kenny believed in herself and continued even when opposed by doctors. Her commitment and dedication made others believe as well.

Roger Bannister came in fourth place in the 1,500 meters in the 1952 Olympics. Two years later he became the first person ever to run less than a four-minute mile. At the time it was an amazing feat. Bannister died recently at the age of 88. He said at one time that if he had won the gold metal in the 1952 Olympics he was prepared to stop running. Because he didn't win, he still had something to prove, which he did when he became the first man to officially run a mile in under four minutes.

Roger Bannister did not give up. He persisted in his dream. He was a believer.

It's so easy to give up, isn't it? We set lofty goals for our organizations and ourselves and for every step forward we often take two steps backwards. What difference does it make if we don't accomplish our goal? No one expected us to do it. Why bother?

We bother because we have to live with ourselves. Deep down we know we are capable to do anything we set out to do. At times we are our own worst enemy like Browning, like Sister Kenny, like the Husteads and like Roger Bannister. All of them had doubts at one time. It's wonderful and important that others encourage and support us but we have to be our biggest fan. When we ask ourselves the question, "Am I a believer?" The answer has to be a resounding "YES"!

Riddle: What has six eyes and cannot see? Three blind mice. You don't have to be blind to see that the only person who may stop you from achieving your goal may be yourself. The solution is simple. Begin today to believe in yourself.

100 percent graduation rate

A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Here's some tips on how you can help us achieve that goal:

1. It's important that we believe that the young people around us can graduate from high school and we need to convey this belief to them again, and again and again.

2. K-12 teachers need to tell kids often that their No. 1 goal in school is to graduate from high school.