Dear Reed Academy Eighth Graders,
In Shoeless Joe, the book that inspired the movie Field of Dreams, Kinsella wrote, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d take more chances. I’d want more passion in my life. Less fear and more passion, more risk. Even if you fail, you’ve still taken a risk.”
(I bet most of you haven’t seen Field of Dreams. Make Mr. Burke show it to you in class and write a 500-word reflection essay on the ending of the movie and our game of catch.)
In good stories, there is always an element of risk. Bilbo left the Shire in search of an adventure. Forrest Gump saved all of his friends in the heat of battle. A dinosaur trainer stared down raptors to save the life of someone new to the job.
For me, committing to play catch every day is a risk. Risk-taking is not just a one-time leap in the heat of the moment. Risk-taking is living out your deepest convictions, whether or not the idea born in your imagination ever comes to fruition. Or as T. S. Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” Maybe this risk will finally get me to the big leagues.
As in every good story, there will be obstacles to overcome: weather, sickness, cancellations, and who knows what else. Some of the hardest obstacles to overcome are the words of those around us. Of course, there are people who tell me I’m crazy, who think what I’m doing is ridiculous.
They are probably right. There are days I think I’m crazy. Spending time and energy playing catch in a world that’s full of hate and war and fear doesn’t make a lot of sense / cents.
Whenever you commit to trying something new, whenever you take a risk, no matter how small it is, Resistance will do whatever it can to make you stop. Resistance will say things like:
What if you fail?
What if you’re not good enough?
What if other people see you mess up?
Why don’t you just give up now?
Here are some ways you can answer Resistance:
I probably will fail. So what. If I fail, then I’ll start over and try again. Bug off.
There are at least a billion people in the world better at this than I am. Go bother them.
If someone sees me mess up, I hope it makes them smile. Smiling’s my favorite.
Why don’t you just give up now?
In the movie We Bought a Zoo, there’s a short line that can help you stare down Resistance and start taking risks, “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.”
Courage, ultimately, is a choice. A simple choice to act in the face of the unknown.
Maybe Churchill said it best, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to play catch with me today. Thank you for the high fives and the laughs and the questions. Thank you for helping me take one step closer toward my goal. Thank you, Mr. Burke (Day #35) for the invitation.
Tip of the hat to those of you who played catch for the first time today. Well done!
And congratulations to Mr. Ratcliff (Day #105) on being invited to ump home plate for a district championship game!
This summer, eighth graders, take a risk. Try something new.
Go live your own good story.