I confess to being a sucker for an inspiring story. There is nothing like being lifted out of the negative noise of the daily news and being made aware that the world is full of people who choose to rise above their circumstances and reach for the stars.
One such example I discovered in an article by Billy Witz in the New York Times. It immediately caught my attention as the person involved is from the land in which I grew up – Australia. Now, however, he is being celebrated as an invaluable member of the newly crowned NBA Champions – the San Antonio Spurs. Why was this person so newsworthy? He is the first indigenous Australian to play in an NBA final.
Patty Mills has an aboriginal mother, who was born in South Australia, and a father who is a Torres Strait Islander which is situated on the northern tip of Australia. Both parents grew up suffering significant indignities for no other reason than for being born a ‘different’ color.
Billy Witz writes: “Yvonne Mills, Patty’s mother, is a member of the Stolen Generations. That term refers to the indigenous children who were removed from their families and placed with white families as part of a government and church-sanctioned program.” The goal of the program was to “civilize” the aboriginal population.
Benny Mills, Patty’s father, was destined to be a pearl diver until his own father intervened and ensured he received an education that left him with broader choices. Both parents now work for the Australian Federal Government on initiatives to raise the standards of living and provide more opportunities for the indigenous population.
But prejudice can leave deep wounds that are not easily healed. Yvonne Mills states, “Aboriginal people have this feeling of shame, of being unequal. They’ve carried this shame all these years and you can understand why.”
Patty Mills, however, was to be the beneficiary of his parent’s experience. They would make sure that he was not a victim of insecurity. Throughout Patty’s young life he went to good schools and participated fully in many different sports. His abilities gained him a spot in the prestigious Australian Institute for Sport. Ironically, his background and color still made him an anomaly.
Whilst attitudes were changing, Patty still had to deal with racism. But his parents had the answer. Let your game do the talking and if it is an adult doing the taunting we’ll handle it. “We had to get him to understand that he was special,” said Yvonne.
Besides his parents, young Patty was inspired by those who had gone before him. One such person was Cathy Freeman, an aboriginal sprinter, who symbolized the progress being made in Australia by being chosen to light the flame at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. It didn’t hurt the aboriginal cause and their sense of pride and self-esteem that Cathy also won the gold medal in the 400 meters.
“That moment was – I get shivers just thinking about it,” says Patty. “Everyone in Australia was clued in during that race seeing her cross the line and how she handled herself not only on the track, but before and after, because she had so much pressure.” Witz suggests that Mills would like to serve as a similar inspiration.
So now, wearing an NBA Championship ring, Mills has accomplished a goal inconceivable for most of us and improbable for a person with his background. And, at the moment of writing this blog, the victory is so new that he is hopefully not only savoring this wonderful experience but, perhaps, also reflecting on the journey that got him to this moment in time.
But what’s next? It appears that Mills does understand the legacy of his parent’s example and what his accomplishments can mean to those who need to know that there is hope and that they too are “special.”
A team mate of Mills, Aron Baynes, also an Australian provides insight: “Patty embraces being a role model. A lot of indigenous youth are fighting to get through, so if they can have somebody they can look up to, that’s a great thing.”
So let us applaud not only Patty Mills for his considerable achievement, but also his parents and all those magnificent people who inspire us to soar above our own limitations to live a life of great expectations.
Would you benefit from daily doses of inspiration? Would you like to experience a powerful sense of purpose and the motivation to achieve your goals?
Download Even Eagles Need A Push and The Eagle’s Secret at Audible.com and let David McNally help you soar to new heights of achievement.