(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Credo to Think About

I spent a good part of today working on kid-related activities. Early this morning, I went with my son to a "field clean-up" day for his Little League. This activity amounted to dozens of dads with gardening tools and a few with tillers churning the fields and trying to smooth them out to make them more playable. Many dads came without kids (I came without tools, but there were plenty to borrow), and my son was one of the few kids who picked up a Bowman's rake and started working without prompting. Many of his peers opted to hang out on the nearby playground.

We all worked for a while, doing the best we could, and many of us laughed at the observation that the work reminded us of some of the legendary scenes in "Cool Hand Luke." Still, after about 1 1/2 hours, we took some satisfaction in turning an overgrown infield into a relatively smooth field ready for play in a week's time. I was proud of my son for helping out and not complaining. He came to this after swimming for a while, and while tired he made a nice contribution. It was chilly and windy, and we worked reasonably hard and without the benefit of work gloves.

Later this morning I took my daughter to her softball practice, and I worked with a subset of the girls on catching flyballs. One of the girls, a fifth-grade who is a national talent in a different sport, is playing softball for the first time. Unfortunately, a popup deflected off her glove and hit her on her upper lip. She started to cry at the pain and then cried loudly once she saw blood coming from her month. A confluence of events gave her great comfort within about 10 minutes -- a dentist dad had a coldback in his car, I had a first-aid kit, and the girls' mom came to take her home. It turned out that the ball hit her on the upper lip above her top two front teeth, and she has a dentist's appointment on Monday morning. I called the family later, and she's doing just fine.

The skills sets of the girls are varied. Most have some of the basics down. Some aren't great at judging pop ups yet, others thrown the ball with too elaborate a motion, and some are stiff-legged in their batting approach and haven't embraced the concept of striding and watching the ball hit the bat. Still, they are nice kids, willing to work hard, and willing to learn. A few need some more encouragement, and I took them aside, told them that they can do whatever they wish if they practice and believe that they can, and gave a few some batting pointers that helped them make contact during an intrasquad game.

The reward was the smiles that I got back from the kids. Some looked less self-assured than others, and a few had parents shouting well-meaning encouragement (but encouragement that, in their minds, drew too much attention to them and wasn't helpful). By taking them aside and working with them one on one, I could sense the gratitude that someone was showing them something as opposed to telling them how to do it. It was a fun practice.

And that got me to thinking: what if each of us woke up and said to ourselves, "what am I going to do to make two people smile today?" If everyone did that, wouldn't your world be a better place? How much effort does that take? Does that mean that you take extra time to wave to the crossing guard at your child's school and thank her for being diligent about the kids' safety? Does it mean that you chat up the barrista at your local Starbucks and tell them it's great that she can be so accommodating so early in the morning? Does it mean that you tell the receptionist at your job that you appreciate how cheerful she is because she's the front door to the company and she'll be the first person at your company that all visitors deal with (and therefore she helps create the first impression)? Can you say something nice to your boss, your dentist, your service manager at the car dealership? Can you do that? It doesn't take much effort, but what you're doing is letting people in your world know how much they make a difference, and they'll appreciate it (of course, be sincere, because most folks have a great "smarminess" radar).

I try to be that way on most days, and, yes, we all have our moments when we can't be like that. We don't get enough sleep, we have sick family members, a busy or tough stretch at work, you name it, but on most days trying to make this a priority. You'll be giving confidence and appreciation to those who deserve it, and you'll be making yourself feel better about yourself too.

It's called being a good neighbor, a good citizen, a good parent, a good sibling, a good colleague, you name it.

So, after you read this, let someone you see frequently know that they make a difference in your life.

You'll be glad you did.


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