You will recall my experience on vacation a couple of summers ago when I amputated the tip of my right thumb while feeding seagulls. I vowed that I would spend a safer summer the following year. In my last column I talked about heading down to the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia looking for colleges where I could teach in a couple of years. The mid-South sounded a lot safer since there are not many hungry seagulls in the Appalachian Mountains.

I was correct about the seagull population in the mountains, but the vacation was not safer. The day we drove into Pikeville, KY, the home of a small Presbyterian College, we were horrified to hear about Jessie James Taylor. He and his girlfriend had a falling out. Realizing that their relationship was over, Jessie went to her house to pick up some of his things. Once he got there, the argument started up again until her sixteen year old son decided to end all the bickering. He got a butcher knife from the kitchen and put it into Jessie's back. In the stabbing process, a part of the blade broke off leaving a nice sized piece of metal deep in Jessie's ribs cage. Jessie decided that he better go to the hospital for medical attention. As he got into his truck to drive himself to get treatment, his ex-girlfriend's son ran up to him with a meat cleaver. As Jessie turned to see what the boy wanted, the boy lodged the meat cleaver in Jessie's skull. Now, Jessie really needed to see a doctor, and he proceeded to drive himself to the local hospital with the meat cleaver and butcher knife still in his body. The local hospital immediately shipped him along with the weapons to the medical center of the University of Kentucky. As Jessie was wheeled into the trauma center, he quipped, "Do I look like Friday the 13th?"

The day before Jessie's ordeal, I watched the final day of the Olympics and marveled at all the competitors-especially those who competed in pain. I recalled how Kerri Strug brought home the gold for the gymnastics team with her performance on a bad ankle. I also watched the determination of Jackie Joyner-Kersee to broad jump with an equally sore thigh. If gold medals are given for top performances in spite of pain, Jessie James Taylor should get a gold medal for his performance of driving to the hospital with a meat cleaver lodged in his brain and a part of the butcher knife in his back.

We all compete during our lives, but only a few of us have an audience of millions observe our struggle for the gold. Some of us get notoriety in the news for our struggle to stay alive. The rest of us who struggle in the marathons of living go unnoticed by anyone. Nonetheless, each of us faces Herculean tasks in life: raising children, working, going to school, or dealing with health problems and other difficulties.

We can learn much about dealing with adversities from the Olympics athletics. For example, we know that courage is entirely a function of the mind. We choose to be courageous; it is an act of will. We are potentially as gifted as any Olympic athlete when it comes to facing courageously the hurdles of life that lie before us.

Additionally, we learn from Jessie James Taylor that a sense of humor goes a long way when we are knifed in the back. Here again, we find that a sense of humor is mental. We need to will a sense of humor just like Jessie. When we get knifed, we need to ask, "Do I look like Friday the 13th?"

The gold medals of life are awarded not for coming in first but for the attempt against all odds. Courage and a sense of humor will help you greatly in your Olympian effort in life. See you on the winner's platform. In the meantime, stay away from teenagers wielding meat cleavers.

This article first appeared in the Dixon Telegraph