A gift from Big Al: Valuing my authenticity

Indulge me for a moment as I take a slight detour from my training reports and my musings on health and wellness topics. Yesterday, we said goodbye to Allen Wilson, my friend and co-worker for the past 12 years. He was a gentle giant on the Buffalo sports scene, covering high schools then colleges and most recently the NFL. There wasn’t another media member, an athlete, a coach or an athletic administrator who had an ill impression of Al. He had a way of making you feel comfortable and important. He had a way of understanding. It was difficult to say goodbye to this great man who at the age of 49 battled leukemia with same strength and compassion he brought to the every other aspect of his life.

Maybe it’s just me, and perhaps its entirely selfish, even trite and cliche, but when I lose someone dear to me, it forces me to examine my own life. How am I doing? How do I measure up? Maybe I should try to be more like Allen, to emulate him as a reporter and writer. Maybe I should try to emulate his compassion, his even temperament and his ability to be calm.

I had these thoughts at his funeral, as friends and family shared stories and offered reasons why the loved and admired Allen. And then it occurred to me — the world already had an Allen Wilson. It doesn’t need me to be him. The world needs me to be me.

Perhaps the gift that Allen gave to me this week was this: To value my authenticity.

Surely there are character traits that I admire in others. They give me new things to try and new ideas to play with, whether it’s a workout or a recipe or a way to handle the daily jerks that cross my path. They give me inspiration, but the key is then to make it my own. The best thing I can do is not try to be like Allen, or anyone else, but to be me. The world doesn’t need me to try an copy someone else. The world needs my unique voice — even when it’s a bit off-tune.

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