Driving Principles

Lessons Learned on the Road of Life

Choice Words

I was never really very good at sports. Don’t get me wrong – I played! Thank Mom that my older brothers HAD to take me along! And I even caught the occasional long pass or made the improbable hook shot, but I was never struck by my brilliance at any given sport. I did “letter” in Tennis the first two years that they had a team….

I played right field in baseball and couldn’t really figure out how to hit a curve ball much less throw one.

I wasn’t too bad at dodge ball, but I made sort of a big target which might have offset any gains made by my throwing arm and accuracy.

Kickball! Not as tough as baseball! And I could run, sort of. My knees weren’t exactly done growing together as I grew up, so the family doctor didn’t recommend that my parents let me play any team sports.

But I was tall and did get to play on the 8th grade basketball team!

Mark was team captain. He was a good player. Man he could jump! But he also liked to shoot from way out. That’s how I broke my thumb! We were warming up before the championship game and Mark took a wild shot from way out just as I was going in for a layup from the opposite side. I found out later that I had fractured my thumb.

That’s how I found myself alone on the playground shooting baskets left-handed. That’s when Allen and I became friends. He came up and shot baskets with me and didn’t mind that I missed a lot. He wasn’t very good at sports, either. But he did have a new bike! A Huffy two-speed. One day he came up riding his bike and he had just gotten a new rear-view mirror mounted on the handlebars. He ahd saved up money from his paper route to buy it. It was then that Mark came up behind us.

“What’s so great about that?” he said.

It was a turning point for me. I could’ve defended my new friend against the rudeness but instead I piped up with, “Yeah, is that so you can see when you eat your boogers?”

Yup. The lesson I learned right then is that I DO make a difference. The words I say make a difference. What I do makes a difference in the direction that the world takes. I met Allen later at a class reunion. He had married one of the cheerleaders from our high school and had a happy family. I still think he might have looked at me a little reservedly, but that might have just been me.

What I hold onto makes a difference.

Did I mention I wasn’t great at sports? My knees were still growing in high school, too. But I played in every football game all four years – in the marching band! I played trombone and was typically in the front row. I played my heart out! I swayed my trombone and became a leader – 1st chair in my Junior year. Lots of others followed my lead when marching. How I played made a difference.

What I slowly realized – I am still realizing it today – is that what I say and what I do makes a difference in this world – to me.

I’m not saying “it’s all about me.” But it is, sort of. I am the only one that I have any control over and that is pretty loose control at that!

I certainly don’t have complete control over where I end up in life – there are so many times I ask myself “How did I get here?” I can’t really trace the steps that brought me to each place in my life – I can tell a story of it, but it is still just a story. So I find myself in places and realize that what I say and how I act makes a difference!

If I am in a laughing mood, the day seems to feel lighter! If I am in a reflective mood, the day seems a bit reflective. Either way is good. I just notice how it most often reflects how I am holding myself.

I don’t really have control of my life, but I can make choices about how I feel.

So you guys find yourselves on a football team in a small town. You didn’t really have a choice in how you got here – your parents moved here or worked here, or whatever. Some of you may not have made a conscious choice to be on this team, but here you are.

Here’s what I have to say to you – you make a difference! What you say makes a difference. Do you cheer each other on, or moan about the day or how hard practice is? How you decide to feel makes a difference. Can you feel happy when it’s too hot or too cold or your leg hurts? You can choose how you feel in life. You can choose to make a difference in you! And that is all the difference in the world.

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