So on Wednesday, I had the privilege of meeting Kevin Carroll, who was a keynote for our annual “STAR” day here at Fresno State. If you don’t know who Kevin Carroll is, first an education. Here is his life story in brief synopses:
- Grew up on the east coast. Near Philly. Immediate connection (as I am a philly boy).
- When he was six, he and his two brothers (3 and 8) were abandoned in Virginia by his mom.
- They were put on a bus back to Philly, his grandfather and grandmother picked the three brothers up at the train station and brought them home
- On the way to his grandfather’s house from the bus station, he saw a playground and asked if he could be dropped off.
- At the playground he found a red rubber (4 square type) ball and started playing with it
- Other kids came out and joined him – for the first time he felt like he belonged. His life was changed by a red rubber ball. He has gone on to see play and balls as an agent for social change. Spent time working for the Philadelphia 76ers (another connection) and has
This quick synopses doesn’t do his story justice –but you can read more about him on his blog:
It is amazing and inspiring. He’s written books – “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball” “What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?!” and “The Red Rubber Ball at Work” – You catch the theme here, right? Awesome, powerful stuff.
But this isn’t what connected me to Kevin. During his keynote, he made just a mention of the things he travels with – “A ball, a book, and his daredevil t-shirt.” I get the ball and book (he used “Where the Wild Things Are” – my favorite book), but the daredevil t-shirt? He didn’t even focus on the Daredevil at all, but it stuck out in my mind. Then I went to the first breakout session, and he shared an article written about him called “A daredevil for social change” -check it out below – this will also give you more info on Kevin and his amazing dream:
And here is what caught my eye – all this focus on red rubber balls – but I was entranced by “The Daredevil” and the significance to Kevin. As a geek, I am always interested when comics inspire others. But I have to confess something – I haven’t been a big fan of the Daredevil. Mostly out of ignorance.
So, a little backstory: by nature, I am a DC guy at heart. I am well versed and familiar with the DC Universe. Marvel? I watched the 1969 Spiderman cartoon as a kid (in reruns in the 70s and early 80s), I watched X-Men cartoons in the 90s, read Spiderman and X-Men comics, and a few Captain Americas here and there. that’s about the extent of my knowledge (well, I have watched all the movies – Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc) But my real first introduction to the daredevil was watching (with my wife) the “Daredevil” movie with Ben Affleck. Yes. Groans. I know. My wife’s response to the Daredevil movie was basically my thoughts as well (and probably many others)– she called Daredevil the “crappy” superhero. In the movie, EVERY person he cared about died. EVERY one. He couldn’t save a single person he cared about. What kind of superhero can’t even save those he cares most about? Now you could call Daredevil a “tragic” superhero (and it would probably be more PC to do so) but my wife’s assessment pretty much summed up my own thoughts as well given this limited introduction into the Daredevil Universe. Honestly, given my DC bias, I pretty much dismissed Daredevil at this point in time.
So I asked Kevin – what was significant about the Daredevil to him? His response (via twitter)? “Daredevil = Courage. Discovered his story @ 10y/o. Catalytic moment for me! Avid reader of DD for many yrs.”
Courage. For a 10 year old boy.
As I sat for that moment thinking about his response, I considered that this figure I had dismissed (the Daredevil) had such a vital impact on this other human being. THIS is what us at geekEd. are trying to connect with. The world dismisses Comic Books, Sci Fi, Vampires, gaming, etc. But for us “geeks,” these things have significant meaning. Like a red rubber ball.
Even within geekdom we can be dismissive of other “geek” things (Like I was dismissive of the Daredevil). But the reality is, these things have meaning to people. They provide hope in a world where there may be none. A hope of a world that does not yet exist, a reality that may not be true at this time – but give us an opportunity to dream. To dream of a world that is different. And for those of us in the business of social change – there is power in that. This is not to say that those who do not connect with being a geek don’t have hope- I think the reality of what I am finding is that hope can come from almost anywhere for people – a red rubber ball, sports, spirituality, the daredevil, Batman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc. But the one constant IS hope. And that is what we do as educators. We provide hope to those students who may not have any. We provide it in different ways – maybe it is spirituality? Maybe it is providing a sense of belonging? Maybe it is social justice? Whatever it is – we are in the business of hope.
As a spiritual person (fair warning reader as I am about to get a little spiritual – but not religious), I believe in faith, hope, and love. But there are people in this world who have not experienced love even from birth, lost their faith in others, and even have no hope. As Ryan McRae once said – we are in the business of loving others when they get to college, and I think that starts with helping others discover hope. Whether it is the magic of a red rubber ball, a world in which great tragedy can bear great heroes, or presenting our residents and staff that things can (and will) get better, it is our job to provide hope to others.
Kevin talked about the fun vampires out there – those that just suck the life out of you. They are the ones who suck the hope from us. In a meeting – when someone tells me it can’t be done, my response is – “I’ll show you!” It is us – the League of Extraordinary Hope Builders – who will go far in our lives, our fields, our families – and it is us who will build into others the concept of hope.
My guess is – right now, as many of have closed our halls, and many others are preparing to close, hope may be a luxury. My hope this summer is that you with be filled in areas you need hope in. Maybe it is a job you feel stuck in and have no hope. Maybe you are in a relationship you have lost all hope of it getting better. Maybe your staff walked away from closing frustrated and angry. Maybe you don’t know why you are doing this anymore. You have got to find your hope somewhere. Maybe it is a red rubber ball. Maybe it is the Daredevil. Maybe it is EVEN Harry Potter. But I do hope this summer, you find your hope – and (as Kevin discussed) your “Why” – they why you do it. And ultimately, prepare yourself to once again pass it on to others in the Fall.