Friday, November 12, 2010

Pick up your trash, please

I was watching ESPN while home for lunch today and I saw this story on Outside the Lines that actually put me to tears. Just a couple posts ago Laura made this comment:
emotions people get from sports has always been such a crazy phenomena to me. we get so upset, elated, etc for something that we can't control at all and doesn't personally effect us at all in our lives. don't get me wrong, i love it, but it is a funny thing. whenever the lakers win and matt is super excited i always tell him what a great job he did and how proud i am of him and how he cheered so well. because, you know, it is funny.
I'm taking this out of the context of her comment, but I just wanted to say that sports has a tremendous effect on our personal lives. If I could write one book in my life it would actually be about the far-reaching effects that entertainment, and sports in particular, can have in our lives. For those who won't follow that link above, which is probably just about all of you, it is the story about a little boy who is suffering from a disease that affects 1/4,000,000 people, that causes a child to age prematurely, at 10x or more the natural rate. But this little boy was just the sweetest little guy, and the only thing he wants to do in this whole world is play baseball.

I still remember seeing Kirk Gibson's home run in the '88 World Series. I remember Francisco Cabrera hitting the single that won the NLCS for the Braves in the bottom of the ninth that scored David Justice and Sid Bream. I remember Bo Jackson ruining his hip against the Bengals in '91. I remember Scott Spiezio and Darrin Erstad hitting home runs to bring the Angels back from the dead in 2002. I remember Robert Horry hitting that three to swing the series back to the Lakers in 2002. I remember Jason Lezak closing in on the French from what should have been an impossible distance for the US to pull out that particular relay in the 2008 Olympics. Just to name a few moments.

Yes, my existence has just about nothing to do with the success or failure of an organization that is ultimately run for pure monetary profit, but how that team fares in its season of play has profound effects on the escape that I have from my day to day routine. It has profound implications for some person who might have little else to look forward to then the next morning's box score when that person will look to see if his team won or lost the night before.

I know that's not what you were really getting at, Laura, but I just wanted to make a point. It does matter. It matters a lot to some people, as it turns out.

On a different note, I loved this bit from Jay Nordlinger:
Finally, there is a long letter that I wish to share with you. I’ll do a little “Keep reading” thing, because, as I said, the letter is long — but well worth the time, I think. In Impromptus, I tell a story about a man who bent down to pick up a penny. This item has occasioned a lot of mail, actually. And here is the letter I wish to share:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

I had a father who almost always picked up trash on the street when he came across it. During all the moments I witnessed these acts, it never occurred to me to ask him why he did it (when virtually everyone else ignored the stuff).

Thirty years later, out on a run in my neighborhood, I saw some trash and was moved to pick it up. It happened that I had recently been fired from a position despite the fact that I had performed extremely productively. I was in a state of mind that had me wondering about my worth. It occurred to me that, despite being unemployed, I could still be a good father, husband, friend, and citizen. Before, I might have done what my father did, with regard to trash, unthinkingly. Now I was doing it to soothe my soul, so to speak. If all I did was improve my neighborhood an iota, I figured I was still “productive” and “worthy.”

A silly little mind game, sure. However, that perspective helped me manage my period of unemployment and, I believe, helped me in the interviews that finally secured a much more lucrative new position.

But that’s not the end of the story. I continue to pick up trash, which means I keep an eye on the ground. As you can imagine, I’ve come across a fair amount of coinage and also bills, which I’ve always considered God’s little way of “repaying” me (not that I ever needed such “encouragement”). Recently, I found a diamond earring. Unable to determine its owner, I gave it to my wife, who was happy to receive it, and wears it happily around her neck. Value? I have no idea, but what it represents to me is incalculable.

So I guess you could say my father’s humble civic actions turned out to be an immensely important gift to his son. It helped me get through my biggest professional challenge and led to a change in perspective which has fortified me for the last 20 years.

How do you like that? Not so much a letter as a testimony.
Before I was in high school, I used to think that it was hilarious to litter, and mostly in egregious ways. All my friends did, and I knew other kids when I went to college that thought the same thing. Then I served a mission in a third world country and I saw how awful it makes everything look. I basically grew up, and guess what was the first thing I noticed and was most grateful for when I got off the plane in Newport Beach, CA? The cleanliness blew my mind, and now I never want to be that person ever again. Then I worked as a janitor and later as part of the grounds crew at BYU and actually kind of liked trash duty and making things nice. Now I pick up stuff all the time around my neighborhood because things are always flying out of people's trash cans up here.

I think it matters. I think it all matters a great deal.

Lastly, I think it's a Bon Jovi weekend. Have a good one, y'all!


Laura said...

although i do appreciate being quoted, and even though i recognize you did say you realized it wasn't how i meant it, i still feel the need to clarify. i agree that sports is a big part of life. um, hello, i just spent a good portion of my evening discussing vacation plans with my family, all of which revolve around where the dodgers will be playing. and i STILL talk about the game i went to where the dodgers hit back to back to back to back home runs in the bottom of the 9th. so, yes, i agree that it impacts me personally. the point i was making was our life goes on the same whether or not our team wins, we gain nothing monetarily (unless you are into gambling i guess), we have absolutely no say or control over how the outcome will turn out and really nothing in our immediate circumstances is impacted. but IN SPITE of that, we all care SO much. that is the funny thing. how invested we are in something that brings us no financial gain. i think it is great. i especially remember thinking this at the dodger game i went to this year at AT&T park. emotions were running SO high and it was amazing how strong the rivalry was...and we are just a bunch of shmucks that otherwise wouldn't have a problem with eachother.

Laura said...

ok, sorry, but i just read the rest of your post about littering. i remember when we were at byu freshman year and we still thought littering was kind of hilarious and you guys even had that overhang under your dorm room where you threw trash. I am so appalled thinking back at it now.

MikeReid said...

i loved the Josiah story. Thanks Silva.