Opening Day is a Koelle family tradition. March 28, 2019 will be the 10th straight Royals home opener I will attend with The Boy. It’s a great time every year no matter the weather; I’ve offered to include my beautiful, sainted wife but she always declines. This is a dad-son event, so as much as she loves the ballpark and the game, she doesn’t want to get in the middle.
This year, the opener falls on a tough day. 4 years ago, my good friend/college roommate/best man Jim Caldwell took his own life on March 28. It’s appropriate that we will be at the stadium; Jim loved baseball, heart and soul. We had drifted over the years, as happens, but a couple years earlier, he jumped in the car, drove from Chicago to Kansas City, and surprised me with a visit. Like no time had passed, we told stories on each other and hung out; a great day I will remember forever.
Fittingly, when I heard the news, I was at a ballpark. The Boy had just played a game, and they were gathering for a team photo. Amy messaged me, confused by some posts she had seen. We wound up on the phone, both in shock. At the time, I was down to the last couple weeks of tax season (second job), working out my notice before starting a new day job, going to night school, trying to spend time with the family… and it all came screeching to a halt.
Over the last four years, I’ve gone through almost every emotion over Jim’s decision. I think about him all the time; if you knew Jim you know why. If you didn’t, you missed out on a genuine good soul. My biggest regret is that I didn’t make more of an effort to reach out. I didn’t know what he was going through, what he was dealing with. Would it have changed anything? Obviously, I have no idea.
Eventually I came to terms with the fact that it’s not about me and my emotions; it never was, of course. Jim was dealing with something that I didn’t understand or know about. That’s often the case – too many of us are caught in that space.
How to Help
So many people are struggling; what can you do to help? There are a million ways to help, from donating your time to supporting public mental health organizations. A lot of those are huge steps, and as a wise person told me recently, “if it’s not something I enjoy I’m not going to do it.” Over-commitment is the best way to fail at anything, so start small, one little thing at a time.
Like what, you say? Yesterday, my sister told me two things that put a smile on my face. First, she told me she was proud of me. Then, as a capper, she told me my father (who died when I was 3) would be proud of me also. Walking on air, man. That a couple sentences can make me feel so accomplished is a great reminder of the effect we can have on each other.
I followed that uplift by seeing this today; my good friend Angie posted a link, and this gem was buried in the middle. Sometimes things just resonate. I read it, then read it again. It really hit home – little things making all the difference. Even the things we see as no big deal – they can make a world of difference to someone else.
Here’s my challenge to you: each day, do two small things. I don’t want to turn this into a contest, a post-off where everyone is showing what awesome thing they did; in fact it’s better if you don’t tell anyone. Going back to baseball, Alex Gordon was The Boy’s favorite growing up. Gordon once said that he was taught not to talk about himself, not to brag. If what you are doing is worth talking about, others will say it for you.
So do two things each day: First, tell someone you are proud of them. Tell your kids they are doing a great job. Find that gym buddy who is dragging and let them know you see the hard work they are doing. Not a big thing; it doesn’t cost you anything but a little time. Just you and them – let someone know they matter. Don’t assume they know how you feel – tell them.
Second: talk about someone else. Post a quote that made you smile. Tell the world what your gym buddy said to you. Tell your significant other what your coworker said. Do those little things as an experiment. Let’s try to radically change the future!