Before last Thursday, I had never been to Oklahoma City. That fact did not disturb me; as a well-trained Longhorn, I was indoctrinated to believe that nothing good happens in Oklahoma. Football and college rivalries aside, I am once again proven wrong.
I attended the Davis Phinney Victory Summit in Oklahoma City over the weekend. My first significant experience with Davis Phinney and his foundation was in the fall of 2015, when the SA Moves Foundation and The Davis Phinney Foundation collaborated to bring the Victory Summit to San Antonio. There for the first time, I heard the full scope of Davis’ message of living well today, despite the challenges of life with Parkinson’s.
The message is simple, but it strikes a resonant chord with me. In the book I just published (you still haven’t read it? Come on – that’s just unacceptable), I tried to express my version of the “living well today” message. During the Summit in Oklahoma City, though, I heard someone express the message through a quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption – “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”
With due respect to Stephen King and Morgan Freeman, I think I’d revise the sentiment slightly. For me, and for Davis, the wonderful foundation leadership and staff, and my fellow Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors with whom I had the privilege of spending the weekend, there is simply no choice. Life is a gift, and living it exuberantly and joyfully is the thank-you card we send for that gift. Parkinson’s or <insert your challenge here> does not lessen the gift any more than darkness lessens the day.
It was a great weekend. During the Summit and the Ambassador training session that followed, we talked, ate some good food (and some other kinds, too), volunteered, argued, got to know each other, exercised, sang Beatles tunes, worked on not taking ourselves too seriously, and collectively fell in love with Dempsey, the service dog representative in our group. (Shh, don’t tell Izzy – she’s the jealous sort). I learned new things about my Ambassador colleagues, and I hope they learned a little about me, too.
From the top down, the Davis Phinney “Parkinson’s peloton” is a remarkable group, not just for their skill and expertise but for their heartfelt commitment and dedication. They care, and that’s a characteristic that is not always evident in growing, dynamic organizations. It comes directly from the top – Davis himself, although he moves more slowly than in the past, is no less charismatic and magnetic. He cares, and it is reflected in the Foundation that he created, and that now surrounds him.
As they usually are, the Victory Summit in Oklahoma City was a huge success. Over 500 people with Parkinson’s and their care partners received a full day of inspiration, information, and encouragement, and left better prepared to live well every day.
I did too.