Friday, June 13, 2008

Lessons from Vivian and the ‘Boys of Summer’

There was a big spider in the garage a week or two ago. So big that Vivian has been scared to cross the threshold from the garage into the courtyard that connects to our townhome. But she’s done it a few times. It’s great to see her conquer fear. And it challenges me to do the same in my life.

I’m reading The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn. He followed the Brooklyn Dodgers for a couple years in the ‘50s and then followed up many years later on all the players. I was disappointed at first because I enjoy the drama of sports – even without the human interest – and he slammed through the two disappointing seasons for a team loaded with talent. The second half of the book follows the lives of these great ballplayers when they’re working in sporting goods shops, building the World Trade Center Towers in NYC, or working a family grocery store. Until recently I’ve been mostly just working through it slowly, but it’s growing on me. I was particularly encouraged today as I’m being introduced to Gil Hodges, the first baseman for the Dodgers. Hodges was the strongest guy on the team and, it seems, highly respected, but he seemed to really battle fear in the batter’s box. Kahn has some great words on courage for any of us…

Few of us are anxious to paint bridges; real risk exits and our sense of self-preservation asserts itself in distaste for high winds that keen through suspension cables. Conversely, the fearless bridge painter may himself be discomfited by tunnels or by ocean breakers. No one is a coward because he shuns suspension towers, or because he draws back from a baseball hurtling toward his head. Rather it is a measure of courage that Hodges fought his cringe reflex year after year. To take fear as he did and to choke it down and make a fine career is a continuing act of bravery.
Be brave.

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