Dear friends, thank you so much for all your thoughts and prayers over the last months. I appreciate the number of inquiries about my health and thought this might be a good time to send you all an update.
Whether you’re still on a high from the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series or hopeful the St. Louis Cardinals will pull themselves above their lifelong rival, there is an excitement in the air. Tomorrow is Opening Day for Major League Baseball.
The great thing about the 2017 season is that, in essence, it will be similar to every other Opening Day for the last 100 years. The essential colors of the brown dirt, the green grass and ivy on the walls, the white bases and baselines are the same as they have always been. And what Jon Lester does on the mound today is similar to what Cy Young did at the turn of the century.
There’s always possibility attached to every pitch; that’s why the game has to move at the pace it does.
People say baseball is boring, but when you realize the possibilities going through the heads of every player on the field during every single pitch, you will understand why baseball moves the way it does.
The batter is trying to figure out if the pitcher is going to try to fool him with the same pitch again. The pitcher is trying to figure out if he can fool the batter with the same pitch again. The catcher is trying to figure out which pitch to call. The third baseman is wondering if he should play up or deep because the batter might bunt or swing for the fences. The shortstop is thinking about fielding a line drive and covering second if they runner on first steals the base. And every player, from those on the field to those in the dugout, is trying to figure out what their role in any of the 100 possible events that may occur within the next minute.
The great thing is that a grandfather can take his 13-year old grandchild to a baseball game and have the same experience as he did in 1966. The only things that are different, really, is the loud music and the food options. Hopefully, in 50 years, that grandchild will be able to share that experience with his or her grandchild, too.
Because unlike many other things in this world, baseball is an oasis, if you let it be. It’s a place where you can almost go back in time and the rest of the world doesn’t really matter for those couple of hours.
I always felt that it was my job as a teacher to help kids feel empowered and encouraged. I would tell them that I saw them as bright, capable and terrific young people. And as a group, my students were people who I respected, admired and wanted to do well.
I treated the people who worked for me the same way. I wanted them to know that they are incredible people and that I appreciate and notice all that they do.
I found that when you make people feel like this, when you show them all the goodness they possess, they want to do the right thing.They have the feeling that they are going to do their best because that’s the standard.
As a teacher I told my students that excellence was our minimum standard. They knew that we would do excellent work.
When I took trips with our high school band, I told the kids that I expected the hotel manager to tell me what an incredible group of people I had. And when we stopped at McDonald’s for dinner, the students should step aside for any couple that came through the door because they shouldn’t have to wait for a group of students to get their meal.
When you encourage things like that, they become the standard. The students or the employees want to do these things rather than thinking of it as something they have to do.
But this only holds true when they have a leader or teacher who models these qualities for them. I didn’t invent the wheel; these characteristics were modeled for and expected of me when I was a student and an employee.
And I’m just glad I could model them for others.
I heard someone say the other day, “Have you ever noticed people won't let you finish your sentence before they jump in with what they are going to say next?”
Conversations like these are hard.
I’ve found that it is much more compelling to talk to people who really want to know what someone else is thinking, and want to listen to what someone else has to say more than wanting to reveal something about themselves or make sure that I know how they feel about issues.
The truth is those opportunities will come when you take the time to listen to a family member, a friend, neighbor or colleague.
We are all able to do it. We are all able to close our agendas and listen. Unfortunately, those who can’t let others finish their sentences are completely unaware of the power of having conversations like that. Many of them go through their lives blissfully unaware, wondering what is wrong with everybody.
I think it’s a very simple exercise to just allow people to finish what they have to say before you jump in. You will become someone who people feel comfortable with, and you’ll be surprised to learn how much more people will share with you then.
And you’ll also be surprised how much more others want to listen to you, too.
I have been so blessed to be married to Beth. We have been married for 36 years, but known each other for 40 years. She said she knew I was different when she met me, but being with her has helped me succeed because she has accepted me for exactly who I am instead of trying to change me.
I think sometimes we want to control other people. Maybe we wish they were more productive or that they wouldn’t work so hard. Maybe we wish they would connect with family more or that they would not be so overbearing on people. We want to make corrections to their life, so we try to adjust their behavior so that they fit into the box we want them to.
When we accept people where they are, we try to understand who they are, where they are within their life circumstances and where they want to be. And then we encourage them to continue on their path.
When we accept someone where they are, when we say, “I understand you have flaws. I understand that you see things differently than I do. And that’s okay. You’re perfect just like that,” we also open the door for people to understand and accept us in return.
Being in a relationship where we wake up everyday, ready to sacrifice to so that the other can feel this type of love has been the greatest blessing of my life.