Author Archives: Dustin Long

Alexander Rossi’s Indy 500 win can’t compare to my experience

Sitting in the stands with my mom, dad and brother for the 100th Indianapolis 500 I thought would be the best day of the year.

Turns out it ranks second.

The morning after the race, I sat on a couch in my mother’s home as we chatted before I left to return to North Carolina. The smile that had been with her all day at the race was still there until she paused in our conversation. All she could say was thank you, thank you, thank you for getting the tickets and bringing us all together.

I sat stunned, not knowing what to say.

A few hours later, as I sat awaiting to change planes in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, my dad called and cried as he talked about how wonderful a time he had with all of us.

I sat stunned, not knowing what to say.

While the race celebrated its 100th running, we celebrated a reunion in Stand A at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IMG_2628As native Hoosiers, the event has special meaning to us. Three generations of my family have attended the race.

My dad has been to the Indianapolis 500 about 55 times, starting in 1954 when his father took his two sons. My dad and his brother each brought dates to the 1964 race.

My parents went to the race through the 1970s and up to 1982 before they divorced. My mom, who has always been a fan, hadn’t been back to the race since. The first year I attended the race was 1983. My brother followed a few years later, but all four of us had never been to the race together.

This year would be different. I bought tickets last year to ensure we’d have good seats for this year’s race. Everybody in the family was expected back for this year’s race. We got together with an aunt, uncle and two cousins, including one who flew in from San Francisco to attend the race, the day before the 500.

I took my mom to the race. My brother took my dad. We met at our seats about 90 minutes before the race.

IMG_2612For as much fun as it was seeing the sights (and people watching) on the way to the track, sharing in the pageantry of the event and enjoying the spectacle of the race down to those final laps on who would win, it didn’t matter that Alexander Rossi won, but that we were together.

While my brother and I have many photos and videos from the day, what will stand out most to me when I think back to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be sitting on a couch in my mom’s house as her voice quivered while expressing what it meant to be at the race together and then sitting in O’Hare Airport listening to my father cry as he said how special it was for all of us to be at the race together.

Sometimes it is best to think like a child

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. That’s a long time to worry about your next meal, where you’re going to stay or how you are going to pay bills.

Maybe your problems aren’t as significant. Maybe there are other issues that weigh you down. Or maybe you know someone who is being weighed down by something each day.

If so, think of this little girl I met.

My church is among a number that shelters homeless people a few times a week during winter. Our neighbors arrive in time for dinner, spend the night and head out in the morning to jobs or such.

The other night, among those helping serve was a mother and her two children. I believe the girl was 7 and her brother was 5. After the little girl handed bread to the neighbors and they went to eat, she had an idea – as only a child would.

Seeing the ice cream that was a part of dessert and knowing that they had root beer, she suggested making root beer floats. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, it had never been offered before.

Now, let’s be honest. A root beer float isn’t going to solve a homeless person’s problems, isn’t going to get them a job, isn’t going to make much of an impact in the long term.

But when you have 86,400 seconds a day to worry about so much, a little act of kindness can can go a long way. Even if it distracts a person from their problems for a few seconds.

That’s the point. While this little girl couldn’t give these people a job, a place to stay or even any financial help, she did what she could.

Isn’t that what the holidays are about?

Isn’t that what every day should be about?

Maybe we all should think more like a child.

A Perfect Night Made Even Better By John Lennon

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It was about this time six years ago. The sun was settling into its slumber along the East Coast, and the nip in the air was becoming sharper as I walked with my girlfriend in Central Park.

We found a secluded bridge that looked out to the city and its illuminated skyline and stopped. I fell to one knee.

Thankfully, she said yes.

As we started to walk away, we thought we heard singing. We stopped. It was singing. We walked toward the voices.

It led us to the Strawberry Fields part of the Park. There, about 100 or so people stood in about 25-degree weather singing Beatles and John Lennon songs on the anniversary of his death.

We stayed for about an hour singing along. When one sing finished, one of the many guitarists began strumming and we started into another song. There was no break. It was just singing and pure joy. It was one of those New York moments you hear about and never think you’ll stumble upon.

As the day turns to night on this Dec. 8, I think about the people gathering in Strawberry Fields in Central Park and to sing Lennon’s songs. I hope they have fun. We did.

What Would You Do?

Two women. Two death sentences. Two choices.

What would you do?

This week has presented two ways of dealing with death. One woman fights. Another relented.

Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old wife who had traveled the world before the discovery she had terminal brain cancer this year. She was given months to live.

After recently visiting the Grand Canyon – the last item on her bucket list – she returned to Oregon, one of five states where physician-assisted death is permitted, and died.

In a piece for CNN, Brittany explained why she declined medical treatment that could have extended her life:

“After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had left. … Because the rest of my body is young and healthy, I am likely to physically hang on for a long time even though cancer is eating my mind. I probably would have suffered in hospice care for weeks or even months. And my family would have had to watch that.’’

Meanwhile, Lauren Hill fights.

She’s the Mount St. Joseph freshman whose desire to play a collegiate basketball game led the NCAA to move her team’s game up earlier in the season. Originally given two years to live, that diagnosis changed not too long ago after an MRI showed her inoperable brain tumor had grown. She was told she had until December.

Lauren has dealt with the pain from her disease and the fear of losing her life to make sure she could play in the basketball game. The event was moved to a 10,000-seat arena because so many people wanted to support her.

In a video piece with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, Lauren explained why she continues to live: “Pediatric cancer is underfunded. I remember being in an appointment and my doctor saying that pediatric brain cancer needed a face. That’s kind of why I’m going after this game.’’

When the game was over, she was asked about her first and last collegiate game. She said she viewed it only as her first collegiate game, hoping to play again.

Fight or relent.

If we are in such a position as Brittany or Lauren, no decision will be bigger. It’s hard to imagine ever having to face such a decision. I don’t know what I’d do.

What would you do?