Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘I Want To Be Somebody Who Lifts People Up’

As the “policemen” of the track, outriders have to command the respect of exercise riders and backstretch workers alike in order to be effective at their jobs. Most tend to utilize a tough guy type of attitude on the job, but Oaklawn outrider Chisum Ewing prefers more of a “lead by example” approach. His voice is quiet and calm, but it has an authority in it that can’t be denied. His instructions or corrections are always delivered with the same respect he expects in return.

Admittedly, the 32-year-old native of Hot Springs, Ark. used to have a reputation as a “hard a**” on the track and as a “party guy” during his off hours, but that all changed in 2017 when tragedy altered the course of Ewing’s life forever.

After the Oaklawn Park meet ended in April that year, Ewing underwent shoulder surgery and needed six months off to recover.

“I’ve been on the racetrack my whole life; I didn’t know what it was like to be off the track,” Ewing said. “There’s not a lot of work to be had for the kind of wages I was making on the track, and that was kind of disheartening to me. I mean, I couldn’t get a job waiting tables. I thought, ‘I’m not even good enough to wait tables, are you kidding me?’”

The hits kept coming.

“I felt kind of lost,” Ewing continued. “Even though I have a lot of faith, I got into this depressive state. My best friend was living with me at the time, and I came home one day and caught him trying to commit suicide. I told him, ‘We’re still friends, but I need you to move out because I can’t be around that kind of energy.’ He begged me to let him stay, but I had to ask him to leave the house.

“Then, later on that evening, he killed himself. I really, really took that hard. Through that time, I was just here. I had no money, I’d depleted everything from six months off. I’m just trying to figure out all this stuff at once, past history all crashing down on me.”

He started attending a local church, Encounter, but just going once a week and immediately leaving after the service wasn’t enough.

Ewing distinctly remembers one afternoon sitting on the bathroom floor in his house, struggling with suicidal thoughts of his own. He looked up and saw a cobweb under the medicine cabinet, and it made him angry. He got up and knocked it down.

The next day, Ewing found himself in the very same place, hearing those same negative thoughts echoing through his brain.

“I looked up, and I saw a spider rebuilding that web,” Ewing said. “I thought about knocking it down again, but I ended up sitting there and just watching for a while. I’m watching this spider, and I hear, as clear as I’m talking to you, ‘You see that spider?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ And the voice said, ‘Do you see what he’s doing?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ The voice explained, ‘He’s not worried about what he’s going to eat, where his next meal is coming from, he’s just meticulously working on that web, doing what he’s been created to do. He knows if he works at it hard enough and long enough, he’s going to catch something.’”

It was so simple, a spider building a web, but the message was enough to silence Ewing’s negative thoughts, at least for that day. The very next afternoon, he heard about a last-minute mission trip to Honduras with Encounter Church, and Ewing knew he had to go. The only problem was the cost: $2,400.

Ewing started selling off everything he could think of, but he was still a bit short at the deadline.

“This couple I met at the church, she just sold her wedding ring and handed me the cash,” said Ewing. “To have that kind of love from a stranger, when they don’t even really know you, that struck me in such a way… it made a lasting impression for the rest of my life. My family situation isn’t really that great, so to have a stranger have that much confidence in me, I was just blown away.”

Chisum Ewing, far left, takes a selfie with kids during his first mission trip to Honduras

That trip to Honduras helped Ewing turn his personal tragedy into a calling to help others. Through all the amazing experiences, one event really stuck out. It involved taking big, yellow pieces of posterboard to schools, on which the kids were supposed to write their dreams.

One child asked, via interpreter, why Ewing didn’t write his own dream on the board.

“At first I kind of laughed it off,” Ewing said. “Then I wrote down, ‘I want to be used as a light, to show others the way.’ You know, there’s other things that I’d like to do, but no matter where I am, that’s my biggest goal.

“I want to show somebody love or kindness that maybe hadn’t ever been shown it. I want to make a mark in this world, not to be famous myself, but to make God famous. Everybody always puts people down; I want to be somebody who lifts people up.”

When he got home to Hot Springs, Ewing began to see things he’d never taken the time to notice before.

“Hot Springs has a massive homelessness problem,” Ewing said. “Being on the racetrack, you sometimes don’t realize the rest of the world. I didn’t realize that human trafficking is a thing in Arkansas. I didn’t realize so many parents were pimping their children out, that so many children were abused… There’s a city 2 ½ hours away from here that sends their homeless here on a bus, so that their city doesn’t have a homelessness problem.”

Ewing started a new routine: multiple days a week, he would purchase sandwich makings at the grocery store and pass them out to the city’s homeless population. A few friends from the church began to volunteer their time to help him, and now, through partnerships with a couple other organizations, the group he started feeds hundreds of people each day.

Chisum Ewing, right, takes a moment to pray with a man in Hot Springs

“I’ve heard so many amazing stories,” said Ewing. “There was a lady one time who walked out of the store with groceries in her hands. She came up and wanted food. She was mad and cussing me, because another guy just took the last plate, but then he gave her his food. I told him, ‘Look man, I’m really sorry, but I don’t have anything else.’ He said, ‘Dude, I’m fine. I’m not worried about my next meal. I wake up and hope that everyone can be as blessed as I am.’

“I sat on a bench for two hours that day, thinking that even though he has nothing, just look at this man. In his heart, he’s got it figured out because he knows how to love people. That’s really giving. That’s when it really struck me, if you reach out and help somebody, not only are you seeing them prosper, they’ve been touched in such a way that they also want to help people.”

Ewing’s future goal is to build a facility near Hot Springs to break young horses, employing kids and young adults who might not otherwise be given a second chance. It’d be almost like a halfway house, he explained.

“If I can teach them a trade, maybe they can pull themselves up and have a chance to succeed in life,” Ewing said. “I’m working to learn more about the system here, so that I know how to work within it when the financials are ready to make this dream a reality.”

He hopes the farm can also run cattle, enough to continue his mission work of feeding those who are hungry. Though Ewing is incredibly pleased with the progress he and his church have made in feeding the homeless population in Hot Springs, he knows there is more work to be done. Still, he hasn’t given the operation a name or an official non-profit status.

“I’m not trying to draw attention to myself – I’m not wanting to benefit,” Ewing explained. “I understand the need to advertise and all that, but that makes it about the people, and not the service. I just want everybody else to see how good God is. I want everyone to have an understanding and appreciation for what He can do in your life if you allow Him to.”

Ewing’s new perspective has extended to his job on the racetrack, as well. He recalls one morning in particular at Oaklawn, when he was outriding and saw Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas out on the track on his pony. Ewing suddenly felt moved to ride over and pray with Lukas.

“At first he was telling me he was busy, but I’ve learned to listen to that feeling inside me,” Ewing said. “I could tell he received it because he was just kind of speechless, and he sat there the rest of the morning just talking to me, not about the horse or racing or anything, but about life.”

Ten days later, Lukas rode over to Ewing in the morning with a big small and a bright light shining in his eyes. Lukas relayed that he and his wife had been driving around Hot Springs when he saw an amputee standing on a street corner with his dog. Lukas wanted to stop, but his wife was driving and laughed off his request.

Lukas said they didn’t get more than a mile down the road before he asked his wife to turn the car around.

“I don’t know what Wayne gave him or did for him, but it doesn’t matter,” Ewing said. “Wayne told me that as much as he’s won on the track, he’d never won that big in life. This is a Hall of Fame trainer; he’s won Derbies! But the joy that was on his face, and the fulfillment he got that he expressed to me, that’s what really makes me feel like I’m succeeding in life.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: ‘I Want To Be Somebody Who Lifts People Up’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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