In September of last year I received a link to a video in an email sent around to the TWLOHA staff. It showed a young man taking back his life, combating his depression and obesity, and finding happiness through running. The video fascinated me, and I watched it over and over. The story, simple and honest, captivated me. I had to understand more about where this young man had come from. I did what any curious young adult would do. I Googled him.
The young man in the video is Ben Davis. In 2009, he was twenty-three years old, 360 pounds, and depressed. His extra weight had dragged him down into a dark place, and he was having a hard time finding his way out. It was a conversation with his grandmother that sparked the inspiration he needed to change his life. She simply asked him if he was happy. After a basic assessment of his life, he realized that he could certainly be happier. So, in an attempt to get a grip on his life, he started a blog and started running.
His journey started out slowly. He began training for 5k’s, hiking mountains, swimming, and going to boot camps at the gym. He changed his eating habits, began interacting with friends more, and wrote about his experiences. His confidence grew. His outlook on life changed. With the support of his brother Jed and his father John, Ben’s life began to turn down a different path. They ran races, marathons, and even completed an ironman triathlon together. Ben began to see that he wasn’t alone in his journey. He had a strong community surrounding him and encouraging him. His life was changing, and he was finding a true happiness that had been so elusive for so long.
Today, Ben is a huge inspiration to thousands of people around the world. He’s started a movement called “Do Life” and just wrapped up a thirty-one city 5k tour before heading to Northern California to complete the Vineman Ironman Triathlon (his second ironman in two years!). His search for happiness has led him on a whirlwind journey that is constantly showing him new and exciting things that he is capable of, things he could only have dreamed of two years ago.
This past January, I began to run.
For the few months leading up to this new life decision, I felt stuck. My motivation, inspiration, and over all oomph for life seemed to disappear, and I was absolutely stuck.
I had never run before, and it was a completely new challenge. Every day, I would dedicate an hour to getting outside, running around my neighborhood and then collapsing into a heap on my tiled living room floor. For days and weeks and months, this went on. I had signed up for a 5k, bought running apparel, and pulled out my five-year-old running shoes that had been worn about three times total. Every day, I pushed farther and farther. I refused to give up.
How far can I run?
How far can I run without stopping?
How fast can I run a mile?
I dedicated myself to improving my health and lifestyle. With each new day and new personal record, I began to see myself become unstuck. I felt energized, confident, and most of all, happy. Soon, I completed two 5k’s and signed up for kickboxing and CrossFit, too.
In June, Ben and I got the opportunity to meet when his Do Life 5k Tour came through Orlando. We talked and shared our stories with one another. He asked me about TWLOHA, and I wanted to learn more about him as well. While our stories are different and we come from two very different places, one thing that struck me was how we shared a passion for people. We both want to use our stories to help others find a way out of their dark places and serve as a source of hope. Our conversation illustrated for me how caring for myself was the first step in caring for someone else, but that I don’t have to find happiness on my own. I am not alone. By sharing my life and joy with others I can, likewise, help someone see the happiness they are seeking in their own life. And the chain doesn’t stop there. We can lean on one another, share life and experiences, and help spark change each other’s lives.
Since the tour, Ben and I have talked about how he can serve as a resource for UChapters, sharing his message of hope and finding a reason to smile, finding happiness and sharing it with others. The more Ben learned about TWLOHA and what we do, the more he loved it and wanted to get involved. To show his support, for the entire month of August Do Life will donate 15% of all merchandise sales to TWLOHA. You can find his store here: http://dolifemovement.com/products. We couldn’t be more excited for this new friendship to grow.
I appreciate Ben so much, not only for his kind donation, but also for being an inspiration to so many people, myself included. His perseverance, dedication, and honesty have given hope thousands of people around the world—hope for a better tomorrow, hope for redemption and healing, hope for a fresh, healthy perspective on life. I encourage you today to share life with someone, do something that inspires you, and seek happiness in the things that bring you joy. Live your story. It is so important.