Fair warning to all the people I know - if you go out to a restaurant with me, anything you say or do could end up being a blog topic. Just fair warning. Just kidding. I always ask permission before posting. It happened at breakfast with Tori and Marcie and a conversation that started innocent and playful. We were analyzing each other’s personalities. Tori, a doctor, is the analytical, introspective one with a dry sense of humor. Marcie, the former event planner, is the fun-loving, organized one who made me chuckle once when she handed me an itinerary for a baby shower we hosted together that had me leading a game at 12:02 pm. Then there is me. It's hard to analyze yourself, but I would rather drop any household chore and go out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner to talk. Some people would say I'm a time- waster. I say I'm a people-person. I am also the one who is frantically picking up laundry off the dining room table when people come to my house to appear like I have it together. We all admitted to doing this.
I have known these women for over two years now. They are dear to me because I have seen the messy parts of their lives and they have seen mine. I have walked in on Marcie when she was frantically cleaning up dog poop on the hardwood floors of the front office of her home. I have waited patiently for Tori while her youngest child threw a fit that couldn't be controlled. They have seen me bald after surgery and have stood by me when I did not feel so positive about life.
Tori so eloquently described our relationship for us that morning at breakfast. “We have let each other into the beautiful parts of our lives beneath the surface.” The reason I am such good friends with these two women is because I have seen Marcie clean up dog poop, I have observed Tori’s fit throwing child, and they have seen me cry not looking my best - the beautiful parts.
Your friendships will stay surface if you only let people in the front door of your house when it is spotless, when you have taken a shower with makeup on, when your family members are all behaving. Those are all goals for which we strive, but life is messy. It's the messiness of life that connects us, not perfection or putting up a perfect image.
On a rainy, dreary Thursday morning, three friends sat in a restaurant and shared their lives, not their accomplishments or successes. No. The beautiful parts-
The definition of the word swagger according to the Google dictionary is “to walk or behave in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way.” As I sat in the coffee shop waiting for the young man I interviewed for this post, he walked in with absolutely no swagger at all according to that definition. He gave me a quick hug that meant a respectful hello and sat down humbly across the table ready for the questions I was about to “pitch” to him.
Parker Dunshee has been probably one of the best athletes to graduate from Zionsville Community Schools and was a very bright, hardworking, disciplined student. He went on to attend Wake Forest University where he also played baseball. He graduated from Wake Forest last year and was drafted in the seventh round by the Oakland Athletics as a pitcher. It is almost every child’s dream who plays a sport to grow up and play at a professional level. Parker is making that dream come true due to a strong work ethic and a “don’t quit” attitude. However, that is not what stands out most to me about Parker. That is only part of the reason I interviewed him.
Along with his solid growth mindset, it’s his simple kindness that intrigues me. The past winter Parker worked out at PRO X, an indoor sports performance facility located In Westfield, Indiana, during off season. It was brought to my attention that this MLB draft pick, who you would expect to walk in that gym with a swagger, is the most humble, kind, down-to-earth, helpful guy. In that gym, the other baseball hopefuls are noticing, not his swagger, but his kindness. Parker sees all people as equals in his day to day life. However, do not think this kind, gentle spirit steps onto the pitcher’s mound without a metamorphosis. He changes personalities like a werewolf who comes out at night. With a poker face that shows little emotion, a fierce competitor emerges and relentlessly battles his opponent to the end - the end of a game, that is. I asked Parker how he could be so kind off the field and so commanding on the field. He answered, “I just had to learn when to turn it on and turn it off.” That is a competitor with great sportsmanship.
I was curious about how Parker developed his appreciative, humble manner. He simply said, “It has always been the example set for me. I was expected to be kind.” Is he perfect? No. He smiled as he recalls being sent to his room when he was young to “think about his behavior.”
Parker chooses to be on “team kind.” Off the pitching mound, he chooses to leave the swagger behind. Parker, wherever your baseball career takes you, know that your kindness matters. Your simple acts are making a difference in people's lives. The example that was set for you, you are now passing on.
This is a young man worth following. You can follow his baseball career at https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=dunshe000par
You can follow his example by simply choosing KIND.
“It makes me happy to make people smile.” That is the last sentence on the Designer Beads by Jess Etsy page that I scrolled through after meeting with Jessica Reed and her mom, Patty. If you read the post about No Label At The Table and watched the video, you already have met this “little angel” as her mom Patty calls her. Patty and I started corresponding after she read my last post that included pictures of her daughter. I do not know what compelled us to want to meet. Curiosity, maybe? Now I have two more remarkable friends to add to my collection.
It was just a coincidence that it was Dr. Martin Luther King Day, the cold, snowy afternoon that I met Shelly Henley at a local Starbucks. A coincidence, but it was so fitting because she has a dream. Employment opportunities for people who have the following character traits is Shelly’s dream.
On a bell curve my life used to be about average. My math ability would be slightly below, verbal ability slightly above, but most everything else about me and all of my experiences would be considered right at average on a bell curve. For years, I would say that I had many reasons to smile. Life was smiling at me. That is until I faced my 49th birthday. Then the world I knew shifted on me, and I found myself having experiences that were considered statistically rare. Oh, how I sometimes long for the top of that bell curve again.
It is a Christmas present that I requested because I thought it was a calendar with inspirational sayings all through it. Then, I broke the seal and actually looked inside. The purpose of this “Life Planner” is to help with action steps for achieving goals for 2018. Lose a little weight -- now I have no choice. Ugh! It’s not what I expected. At first glance, it looked overwhelming. Then the more I flipped through the pages, I started to get excited. The inspirational quotes gave me enough motivation to start filling the dang thing out. My favorite page so far has a quote about action.
Last summer I was involved with the startup of a new non-contact boxing program for kids titled First Punch. This program includes all kids especially those with challenges. Leif is one extraordinary kid who has made an impact on my life through this program.
At the start of the 2016- 2017 school year, I didn't know it would be my last as a school guidance counselor. Retirement came early for me due to my Parkinson’s Disease. For that entire year each morning, Monday through Friday, my routine was the same - bus duty at the start of each school day. Every morning before I dismissed the buses, I was to specifically help one little boy get safely off the bus. He was a petite ginger kindergartner who never looked me in the eye as I greeted him each morning. His eyes were ever so busy taking in everything around him, everything except for his feet trying to navigate the oversized steps of that bus.
I have never been very photogenic. Ever since that first most important school kindergarten picture, I have proven that for me smiling naturally in front of a camera is the equivalent of taking the SAT test or any test that makes one break out into a cold sweat. I have been told the story countless times. My mom curled and fixed my hair just right and sent me to school that day unaware of how this day would make family history. I blame the little plastic comb that was handed to me while I waited in line for my turn to be photographed. I tried to beautify myself with it just before the photographer said, "Say cheese!" Ask someone over fifty if you do not remember those little plastic combs that we all received in exchange for our smiles. The disheveled hair and my impish grin has caused much laughter in my family. I will save you "a thousand words." Make your own judgement.
How much do our small acts of kindness matter? As we move through our days, do the encouraging words, small acts of generosity, and the smiles we offer up to strangers and friends matter, except for a fleeting feel good moment? Do they really have a lasting effect on those around us? I may be preaching to the choir. "Of course they do," you are probably saying. However, talk is cheap, and so my question really is if we know that they matter, if we know that they are making a difference, then why do we not look for every opportunity to be intentional about noticing the people in our lives that need our encouraging words, small acts of kindness, and smiles?