United We Rise: Part 1

In light of what’s happening in the world, I want to take a moment and share my view of the year 2020, well, just the first six months! I’ve been waiting for the right moment to distill my thoughts and unveil this two-part series. Part 1 will center around COVID-19 and the healthcare heroes and essential workers that kept our country thriving. Part 2 will dive into the unrest in America with all the social injustice that’s been going on for countless years but finally hit a boiling point in 2020 with the Black Lives Matters movement, peaceful protests, the unfortunate rioting, and the incremental positive changes we are starting to see. While this two-part series will feel different than my traditional features on professional athletes’ journeys and their impact on society. It will serve as an opportunity for me to kick off a series of reflections, and personal, unfiltered opinions on topics that matter to my Beyond the Legacy Family. 

I often hear people say, “Can we just throw away the year 2020?” “Can we hit the rewind button and get a do over?” and one of the more common quotes I hear is “I wish this would all just go away and we can return back to our normal lives.” But what if the “normal” lives we were living in prior to COVID-19 was legitimately flawed and we were too distracted and blinded by all the things we deemed as essential? 

Before COVID-19 devastated the world and as 2020 began, there were events that stole headlines and affected thousands upon thousands of lives. There were the Australian brush fires, the earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, and the devastating floods in Indonesia. In mainstream news there was the tragic passing of NBA Hall of Famer and Laker Legend, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and the seven other individuals on board the helicopter that crashed in Calabasas, California. As one tragedy ended, it was just a matter of time before the news was overtaken by a pandemic called COVID-19. As a world, we were mourning and healing at the same time and we were only two months into 2020.

The first reported case of COVID-19 dates back to November 2019 in Wuhan, China, and soon thereafter, we would see cases in South Korea, Italy, and many countries across the globe. Meanwhile in the US, we were going through our normal daily routines, spending time with family and friends, attending social gatherings, and going to work, while children were going to school or daycare. All the things we deemed essential pre-COVID served as a distraction to what was truly going on globally. I remember having conversations with folks in early March and recall hearing statements like, “The news says this will blow over, I’m not worried.” “From what I hear it’s just a respiratory thing like the cold or the flu.” “It won’t affect us like other areas across the world.” This is where ego and misinformation play a role in our downfall to the growing pandemic. 

By mid-March, we were blitzed by something bigger than us that does not discriminate. We heard about athletes, celebrities, and people from our local communities testing positive and being hospitalized. On the news, we saw daily stats, death tolls, and heard horror stories from hospitals worldwide. Over the last 4 months, COVID has found a way to hit close to home. I could recall having conversations and checking up on friends that were affected by COVID-19 and fighting for their lives in the hospital. I have countless friends all over the country that have lost close family and friends. There are certain experiences that you’ll never forget where you were or what you were doing when they happen. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is one of them. If you don’t reflect on your own life, your life choices, wonder about your health, or the well-being of your parents and grandparents, then I don’t know what will humble you or get your attention.

During pandemic while we were asked to stay home, these brave healthcare heroes were seeing patients and caring for lives. On behalf of Beyond the Legacy – Thank You!

 

Before our eyes we went from a society that worshiped public figures, entertainers, and athletes, to a society that reprioritized essential versus non-essential. Public figures, entertainers, and athletes were put on a pedestal and labeled as heroes and larger than life. Sports created an escape from reality, a source of joy and entertainment. It’s a brother and sisterhood among athletes, and a bridge to unify family, friends, and even total strangers across the country as they root for their respective teams. Starting in March, that narrative changed. It was our healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery service drivers, mail carriers, and all the additional essential workers on the frontlines we were saluting and thanking. We would see hashtags on social media, such as #ThankYouHealthcareHeroes and #ThankYouEssentialWorkers, start trending and gain popularity. The public figures would soon use their social platforms to thank healthcare workers on the frontlines. At 7 ᴘᴍ every day, people from cities across the country would clap, cheer, and bang on pots and pans in homage to the healthcare heroes. Countless people around the country donated supplies, meals, and shared their gratitude to the many hospitals and healthcare workers during this time.

On a personal level, I have several friends that are in healthcare and other professional verticals that are considered essential. We were asked to stay home, stay safe, and socially distance ourselves. These brave healthcare professionals put themselves in a direct path with this virus, risking their lives, sacrificing time away from their families, and caring for the sick when the patient’s family couldn’t visit them in the hospital. Across the country, the mail didn’t stop, the Amazon packages kept coming, the grocery shelves were being restocked, and the online deliveries didn’t pause. Those essential workers deserve a proper salute, as well. Throughout the months, I would personally donate supplies, coffee, donuts, and meals to Morristown Medical in Morristown, NJ, and Overlook Medical in Summit, NJ. I used my social platform to highlight these heroes and give them the gratitude and spotlight they rightfully deserve.

A collage of personal friends that work for USPS, UPS, and a OTR truck driver. On behalf of Beyond the Legacy, I salute you!

 

In addition to the healthcare heroes and essential workers, I privately and publicly found unique ways to support small businesses. I could feel the sadness, helplessness, and frustration in their voice when I had one on one conversations with them. I could only imagine the stress they are enduring. What was deemed essential versus nonessential is up for debate but it truly crippled a lot of small businesses. There is no magic formula to recover from four months of being completely closed down. For those returning in each phase, I will be pulling for you and will do my best to continue to support the local small businesses in my area. While the kind gestures don’t replace all the lost revenue from the shutdown, I did my best to personally show my appreciation for the people that have been there for me and the local community through the years. I’m also grateful for the new friendships I made during this pandemic. Whether I was surprising individuals in healthcare and treating them to dinner from a local restaurant, gifting chocolates from a local chocolatier like Enjou in Morristown, NJ, delivering ice cream from a local shop like Main Freeze in Madison NJ, donating assorted donuts from The Good Donut Shop in Somerville, NJ, or personally gifting some of my Beyond the Legacy apparel, I found ways to share my gratitude and remind all of them they are loved and appreciated. It brought a big smile to face to see the butterfly effect of my kind gestures come full circle. Based on my Instagram and Facebook shares, I saw it inspire friends to pay it forward locally with local food donations to hospitals and more.

There are many ways to support your respective local small businesses. It starts with supporting them through personally spending in their establishment and encouraging friends and family to do their part and shop local. If you don’t want to leave the house, use their online and delivery services, purchase gift cards, leave great reviews on yelp, google, and on their social media platforms, make an impact and tip generously, and take the time to say thank you to the staff.

The importance of supporting small businesses and local small businesses.

 

In the future, I’m sure I will look back on the first six months of 2020 and will be in total shock remembering all that transpired and how we got through it. I also realize the inevitability that this moment in time was going to happen whether we like it or not. We can easily point fingers at the federal, state, and local governments, and debate for hours and days. Yes, we can adapt but the larger narrative is it will take a unified approach for all of us to create the change we want to see in the world. Life is not about me, but about we. Sure, we all want to go dine in at restaurants and bars again. We would love to see live sports on TV or have the ability to attend games in person. It would be nice to get a haircut or for people to get their nails done. There are endless things we can list that would be nice to return to, but this pandemic and the current state of 2020 should be a reminder that life doesn’t revolve around us and our desires. That’s a common mistake we all made prior to the start of the year. As we reflect on the months prior to March 2020, we should count our blessings, cherish those in-person memories, and use it as a reminder to live each day with purpose. This pandemic should humble us all, teach us patience, the importance of being grateful, having empathy for others, and the fact that when it’s all said and done, family is truly everything. By family, I mean both bloodlines and friends we consider family. The people that care about you the most and have your back with zero judgment.

These last four months have been a personal journey for me, as well. There’s always a silver lining to everything that happens and while it’s easy to complain, it takes strength and courage to create solutions. During this pandemic I’ve personally changed my diet and fitness regimen. The luxury and convenience of take out, fast food, and eating late due to my prior weekly routine was not ideal. From cooking my own meals, controlling my portions, and the daily walks I’ve incorporated, I’ve lost 22 lbs in a matter of two months. During my local walks, I would couple it with calling someone new over the phone. You’d be surprised how time flies when you are having a great conversation with someone and before you know it, you have achieved 3–5 miles of walking.

While I have always cherished my family and friends, this time of pause has created more opportunities for conversations of substance. We all have a circle of family and friends we keep in touch with but we are all guilty of losing touch with a handful of our friends and even extended family. The months of March, April, and May re-opened a lot of long overdue conversations with friends and family. I had countless friends share that same experience. This pandemic also created new friendships and bonds for me with amazing people in healthcare, local businesses, and individuals across the country that believe in my brand and positive mission in life. 

I created Beyond the Legacy three years ago to provide professional athletes a platform to share their personal journey, lend their voice to a cause, and share their personal impact to society. As my brand evolved, I found my mission to be centered around the diversity of athletes, family, and friends who believe in my core values of “Gratitude” and “Family Is Everything.” Those same friends are the same individuals that are having conversations with me and within their core group of friends about the social injustice and change we want to see in America. 

On behalf of Beyond the Legacy, we’d like to collectively show solidarity on social media, continue to listen and learn, to support black creators and business owners, to share how to donate to causes that need funding, and to remind folks the importance of voting and registering to vote because the election this November matters more than ever. 

Beyond the Legacy supports #BlackLivesMatter and we believe 2020 has opened the eyes of a diverse group of people around the world who are now listening, sharing their support, extending their empathy, and doing their part to create change, educate, and share. As you look all over social media, there are videos and images of peaceful protests that will make history. We see families of all backgrounds share these moments with their children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. We have a long way to go but there are positive changes happening only in the last 30 days that were not even a thought in the last 30 years. We are seeing confederate statues across the country being removed, we recently saw the removal of the confederate flag from Nascar, and we are seeing streets being renamed across the country to “Black Lives Matter.” We all own a piece of this change and it starts with our communities and grows from there. This is not an overnight fix but starts with us, and our next generation of leaders. Be the Change.

Part Two of “United We Rise” will touch on social injustice, Black Lives Matter, the peaceful protests, the unfortunate riots, and the need for equality and change we want to strive for as a nation. There’s a lot to unpack around those themes and I would be remiss to not share my point of view on behalf of Beyond the Legacy. Be sure to follow @BTLegacy365 on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on all the latest social shares and Part Two.

The limited edition “United We Rise” dri-fit is the newest addition to the Beyond the Legacy apparel line. Designed in collaboration with a super talented artist and good friend @marvellachalks

 

Check out the Official Beyond the Legacy Shop to purchase the limited edition “United We Rise” Dri-Fit shirt and more. A portion of the sales gets reinvested back into small business. The purpose is to share gratitude through the element of surprise and by paying it forward one customer at a time.

More about Drew Stephens

Follow Beyond the Legacy on social media:

Instagram: @BTLegacy365 

Twitter: @BTLegacy365 

Beyond the Legacy Official Facebook Page

YouTube Channel