After four re-schedules, I finally spoke at the Sunrise Rotary group this morning. Since I’d have to wake up before sunrise to be ready to speak by sunrise, I laid out my clothes last night so I could get dressed in the dark and not disturb Jamie. Just jeans and a t-shirt — the same thing I wear every day, the “uniform” that feels most true to me. I sorted through t-shirts until I found my “Wanna Play Catch?” shirt, figuring it was the most appropriate for the story I wanted to tell.
But I dreamed that I was not able to tell my stories this morning because I was not wearing dress code appropriate clothes. Sunrise Rotary meets at Twin Oaks Country Club and I don’t know if there is a dress code or not. When I woke up I remembered the dream and grabbed my Royals World Champions polo shirt out of my closet. I still wore the jeans.
My public speaking and pastor friends would probably be horrified to learn that I tell stories from a manuscript. In the manuscript are prompts for the pictures on my Powerpoint and the stories are edited and arranged to tell one big story of what it means to live a great story. I intentionally shape each story to the audience. Thanks to the multiple cancellations, I had been working on today’s narrative for close to six months. In twenty minutes, I told stories that covered 40 years of my life and ended with the catch-playing quest.
As is my norm, as soon as I finished, I sat down and my heart started hammering inside my chest. I took a few deep breaths, the Rotary club dismissed, and a few people walked to my table to introduce themselves. Will was one of the people who stayed around to share baseball stories.
A Cardinals fan and a Musial fan, Will told me a story about The Man that I had never heard, about his humble, uneventful attendance at Mickey Mantle’s funeral. Will’s a southpaw who played high school ball at Parkview. When he was a student at Drury, he took a baseball history class taught by Dr. Harrison. The class took a field trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum where Will heard stories from Buck O’Neil.
I am not certain I adequately disguised my jealousy.
Will now coaches his daughter’s softball team and uses the game to teach the most important lessons of perseverance and overcoming failure.
Now, I’m not really a fan of throwing the ball early in the morning. I prefer to work on words before stretching and getting exercise. But I loved hearing Will’s stories and flexibility is a must in this project. Afraid of afternoon storms, I asked Will if he’d be up for a game of catch.
Will borrowed the glove that Play It Again Sports gave me and rolled up his sleeves. We stood on the grass forty yards behind the 18th green, a hole I once parred 25 years ago to shoot a 79. Susan kicked off her heels and joined us for a few tosses before she had to leave for another meeting.
And early morning catch felt great.
In the first chapter of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert quotes poet Jack Gilbert. “We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”
I may be trading my morning coffee for a morning catch. Playing catch with a new friend is a delightfully invigorating way to wake up and start the day.
Tip of the hat to Sunrise Rotary for the invitation to tell my story this morning!