Pep Talk: “Mental Miner's Hats”

June 11, 2017

“At night the school janitor used to let me into the gym but I had to practice basketball without the lights on to avoid detection,” said the Denver community activist. “I learned to play hoops in darkness.”
Randy Perkins was really good at hoops and played collegiately for the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley. However, the founder of Colorado Miners Community Center, in the Mile High City’s Elyria neighborhood, is even more talented at serving others. “We named the center ‘Colorado Miners’ because so many kids/families in this neighborhood have little hope. Gangs are quite active, there’s a large undocumented population, the I-70 expansion project is disruptive and poverty is rampant. Many who walk into our facility are like miners. In a dark and deep hole. We provide light.”

Beautiful. Here’s an example. When the facility first opened, graffiti was a problem. “I got to know the perpetrators, earned their trust and invited them to share their art inside, where we could acknowledge their talents,” Perkins said. “The tagging stopped.”
The community center has a daycare/school, gym, weight room, kitchen and meeting rooms. It’s an abandoned city of Denver recreation facility. Long ago, “Coach Randy” shared with the Denver Post: “This place now, it breathes life — it has resuscitated this community. It feeds my soul every day.”
The former business executive walked away from a lucrative career and right into one of Denver’s poorest neighborhood’s with a servant’s heart and, figuratively, a miner’s hat offering illumination for others with dimly lit and uncertain tunnels ahead.
While visiting with Perkins recently your knucklehead scribe’s mind ventured to a 27-year-old man who has known too much darkness. About six months ago while in the Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life Program and active in A Stronger Cord, the smart dude shared at ASC Monday Night. “My mom was a prostitute. I have no idea who my father is. There were always parties at my house. When I was nine, my mom began to offer me to her clients. I ran away at 12.”
15 years later this handsome young man was offered a miner’s hat via the New Life program. A Stronger Cord is trying to help too. The night he courageously revealed this tragic tale, I can remember hugging him afterward with, “I admire you’re still trying.”

Our past experiences and the fertile soil they provide. Personally, a senior year in college spent too intoxicated on self pity but spared brushes with law enforcement for egregious acts, inspire an ol’ jock to engage others through a community outreach wellness movement based on fitness, relationship building and community service. Gratefully, in my darkness, many family and friends were nearby and equipped with extra miner’s hats.
What about you? Where might it be time to utilize talents and tools developed from challenging times? This week, like Perkins, make sure to carry along a mental miner’s hat or two. Your encouragement could illuminate someone’s path and offer hope and confidence to those who can’t see a bright future.

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