Steven Arango: A New Year's resolution for the rest of your life -- Live like Roberto Clemente

Every year millions of people celebrate the New Year with their resolutions. From losing weight to reading more to finding a new hobby, most have participated in this ritual. But these goals are fleeting and, although beneficial, can be somewhat selfish.

This New Year should be different. Our world is turning to a new decade, a fresher start than normal it seems.

As we create our resolutions and celebrate with our families and friends, it can be easy to forget that there are still millions of people suffering all over the world and in our own backyard. Whether it’s the opioid crisis in the United States, the man-made humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, or the ongoing human rights abuses in North Korea, there is much to be done.

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So my challenge to you and to me is to create a New Year’s resolution for the rest of our lives: live like Roberto Clemente. But who is Roberto Clemente and why live like him?

Roberto Clemente was the starting right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates for more than a decade and a half. His Pirates achieved two World Series titles, defeating one of the greatest offenses ever assembled in the New Yankees and an elite pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles, in 1960 and 1971, respectively.

Getty

Getty (2004 Getty Images)

He collected exactly 3,000 hits, an elite club that fewer than 35 major league baseball players have achieved; keep in mind professional baseball was invented in 1869. He achieved fame in the United States and was viewed as a prophet in his homeland of Puerto Rico.

But Clemente was much more than a famous athlete. More importantly, he was a humanitarian. His life’s goal was to build a children’s sports complex in Puerto Rico, so that children could mature through sports and set their life on the right path.

Roberto Clemente lived his life like it was one long, selfless New Year’s resolution. If only we would do the same.

His everyday life displayed his life’s purpose as well: when he traveled from city to city, he would spend as much time as he could visiting children’s hospitals; he made lifelong friends with staff members in the Pirates organization, most of whom would be considered “lowly” or “unimportant.”

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 16: Roberto Clemente statue outside Three Rivers Stadium is shown on October 16, 1994 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 16: Roberto Clemente statue outside Three Rivers Stadium is shown on October 16, 1994 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) (1994 Getty Images)

In one specific instance—although not uncommon—Clemente was visiting his sick father in the hospital, and the man in the bed next to him complained about agonizing back pain. Clemente offered some help, as he had dealt with back pain throughout the majority of his life, and massaged the man’s back until the pain subsided. For Clemente, no person’s pain or need was too small or trivial.

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Clemente’s life has been intertwined with mine for as long as I can remember. As the son of a Venezuelan immigrant, baseball was as much a part of my childhood as arepas and platanos.

Since I was old enough to grab a baseball, names like Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, and Mariano Rivera filled our living room. But Clemente’s name was always spoken with different tone; it was surrounded by a reverence that other athletes did not enjoy. This tone was not a result of his incredible baseball statistics though—it was because of his selflessness.

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Epitomizing a life of service, tragically, Clemente’s life ended while trying to serve others.

On December 23, 1972, a terrible earthquake devastated Nicaragua. Foreign aid flowed to the country, but the corrupt regime withheld aid from the local citizens. Clemente created an earthquake fund to support Nicaraguans; he helped raise over a $100,000, with hundreds of pounds of food and medical supplies collected as well.

Our world craves selfless leaders; it needs them, especially today. We may fail at achieving the level of service Clemente demonstrated. But if we adopt his motto—our world and our lives will be better for it.

Fundraising was not enough for Clemente though. Worried about the corruption, Clemente decided to travel with the aid to Nicaragua to secure its safe passage.

On December 31, 1972, when most people were celebrating New Year’s Eve with their loved ones, Clemente entered a cargo plane destined for the devastated country. Moments after Clemente’s plane took off, it crashed. There were no survivors.

PITTSBURGH - Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talks to the media after getting his 3000th hit against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium on September 30, 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH - Roberto Clemente #21 of the Pittsburgh Pirates talks to the media after getting his 3000th hit against the New York Mets at Three Rivers Stadium on September 30, 1972 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Morris Berman/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Service was part of Clemente’s DNA, just as much as his beautiful swing and an incredible throwing arm were. He shouldered a burning responsibility to help others. In fact, his life motto was “if you have a chance to make life better for others, and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on Earth.”

Clemente certainly did not waste his life.

He lived his life like it was one long, selfless New Year’s resolution. If only we would do the same.

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Our world craves selfless leaders; it needs them, especially today. We may fail at achieving the level of service Clemente demonstrated. But if we adopt his motto—our world and our lives will be better for it.

For this New Year and the many more to come, may we all seek to follow the shining example of Roberto Clemente.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Marine Corps, Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.​