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Friends: A Vital Part of Our Lives

December 13, 2020 by  
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A few weeks ago, I got a terrible phone call from my best high school friend’s two adult kids. What they told me cut me to the core. They were calling from the hospital where their dad had just died.

Richard Harvey was my dear brother and the first black guy that I really got to know. He was my high school buddy and my basketball teammate. We met in Ankara, Turkey when our fathers were working overseas to help other countries. I knew he had been in the hospital because I had talked to him on the phone a few weeks earlier. He sounded find and we all thought he was recovering. The phone call from his kids was like a giant punch in the face and gut.

Richard Harvey and I, along with other American kids, attended a small high school in Ankara, Turkey. He truly was my soulmate and we bonded very quickly when we both made it on the high school basketball team. We got better every week and worked so hard at it. A big part of that great improvement came from my older brother Bruce’s death on the first day of tryouts for the team. Bruce died right in front of me.

Because of that, Richard and I, along with our great big Texas center Ed Beckcom, made a commitment to win in my brother’s honor. We practiced many, many hours each day. There were many small American High Schools in Europe, the middle East, and even northern Africa, and we were bound and determined to win the championship for that entire area.

The big championship tournament is held each year in a huge stadium in Rome, Italy. Thinking back after Rich’s death I had some vivid memories. We did in fact make it to the finals of the Rome tournament and even to this day I marvel at what happened in that game.

Notre Dame high school was the number one favorite and we were to play them in the finals. It was a very close game and with only 20 seconds left, Notre Dame was 1 point ahead and had the ball. They took one last long shot and it missed. Big Ed Beckcom went high in the air and came down with the rebound. The outlet pass went to me and Richard and I were speeding down the court with two on one. The clock was ticking down very fast.

When we got close to our basket, I faked a shot and threw a bounce pass to Richard and, as I did, Richard slipped and fell. Oh my gosh, I was petrified! But as he hit the floor, he tossed the ball up toward the basket and, miracle of all miracles, the ball went in the basket as the buzzer sounded.

WE WON, WE WON! Wow, were we ever excited and in 7th heaven. We did it for Bruce, and for us too! That day certainly cemented our friendship and we’ve kept in touch all these years. Hmm … that’s about 60 years!

I know that you, the reader, know the huge importance and gift of having good friends and we especially see how important that is since COVID-19 has made it hard to be close to them or make new friends. So, let’s all double down and reach out to friends, old and new, on phone calls, through texts, and on the internet and stay connected with these dear and important parts of our lives.

In photo above: Ed Beckcom (top row, left), Richard Harvey (middle row, right) and me (bottom row, left.) 

Stir Yourself Up Instead of Going Stir Crazy

April 26, 2020 by  
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Wow. Now, after several weeks, we are still in lock down mode, but that doesn’t have to force us into a mental lock down too. Use this time to look at your world and your relationships in a new way.

The virus has undoubtedly brought my wife and I closer and has pushed my mind to see and think much more about details of so many things. For example, the other day, Kimberly said “Hey, let’s take a drive and look at all the beautiful blossoms that are out now.” Before the pandemic, I would have said, “Are you kidding me? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.”  But with what’s going on, I said, “Okay, let’s go.” Well, when I paid major attention to all the absolutely gorgeous and beautiful blossoms, I was so very impressed, and that drive lifted my mood. It was such a simple thing, but it did us so much good. Thank you, mister virus.

Talk about me noticing details now! Walking down my long driveway to pick up the newspaper I saw a little rock and noticed what looked like a face. How cool. By the way, walking to get my paper always starts my daily walking goal and I usually hit my goal of 20,000 steps a day, even in times like these.

Kimberly is spending hours and hours doing what she loves to do – making beautiful beaded necklaces and other jewelry. We have also found ourselves playing pool and shuffleboard and having a great time doing so many little simple things that we almost never do.

And, hey, remember that now is a great time to reach out to friends and family. My wife Kimberly has reached out to her family and had many long conversations on the phone with her father and friends. Even if you can’t physically hug your friends and family, you certainly can send a virtual hug on the phone.

I even found myself reaching out to friends from 60 years ago. I wanted to talk to my basketball buddy Richard Harvey. We were on the winning team that took first place in an American high school tournament in Rome, Italy back in the day.  I got a hold of his son Kyle who gave me Richard’s phone number in Ohio. I had a great conversation and did that virtual hugging thing. Then, the very next day an old friend of mine, Russ Whitney, called me. He read my first book back when he was a meat cutter in New York and now gives me a lot of credit for his huge success in life. He’s now having 1,000 apartment units built in Florida.

So, it turns out that we don’t have to put up with those feelings that we are going stir crazy.  We can turn this shutdown situation into a really good thing for us and our friends and family. It’s so amazing to me that I began noticing and paying attention to so many details, even simple things around the house, such as pictures and decorations that I have always just skipped over. And now I have that super little rock with the face to remind me to pay attention to the details too.

 

Turning a Liability into an Asset

October 10, 2014 by  
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Have you ever been in a room when someone walked in that totally dominated everyone’s attention?  Someone who stood out so much that you could only stop and direct all your attention to that person? That is exactly what you get when Mark Eaton walks into any room. Why would you take immediate notice of him? Well, for one, he’s hard to miss standing 7 foot 4 inches tall! But that’s not all. If you are fortunate enough to hear one of his lectures, he’s even more of a standout as a speaker with a great message.

If you followed basketball a few years ago you know Mark Eaton played for the Utah Jazz, ending up as an all American and breaking the all-time NBA record for the most blocked shots. You might assume he had an easy trip to the top, but that’s very far from the truth.

Recently I was privileged to hear him speak–his wonderful wife Teri talked me into it–and from the lecture he so eloquently delivered to the audience I learned some great lessons and concepts. His spoke primarily about corporate team building but the thing that hit me so very hard was his words about how a person can turn a liability in life into an asset.

You see, for all of his younger life his height was a huge liability–he was teased constantly and called names. Yes he was on his high school basketball team but he sat on the bench virtually the entire season as he watched the little speedster guys rip up and down the court. He actually really hated basketball.

So what did he do? He studied to be an auto mechanic. But thanks to a great mentor he met when he was in his 20’s he was directed, coached and shown how he could turn what he perceived and thought of as a huge liability into a gigantic asset. His mentor showed him what he needed to do to play great basketball and Mark worked hard and long before he got to where his mentor wanted him to be. He went on to set records in the NBA and helped the Utah Jazz move from the very bottom of the league to the top. Now he’s doing it again as an all-star lecturer, speaking from coast to coast.

After hearing his story, I couldn’t help but think of a very dear high school friend, Richard Harvey, who played with me on our basketball team in the faraway country of Turkey. About 12 years ago I got a phone call from Rich telling me his son Kyle who was just 14 years old had bone cancer. Wow, what a shocker.

Kyle had a very tough battle. He fought it with all he had and eventually defeated cancer. However, the cancer had left its mark, stunting Kyle’s growth. Today, at age 26, he’s just barely over 5 feet tall and he looks like a little kid. Big time liability, right? For most people it would be and it was for Kyle for a while as well. But Kyle eventually turned that perceived liability into a huge asset.

He made a move from the mid-west to Los Angeles and got a job as an intern at Paramount Studios. But that only lasted a short time. He floundered around the city, trying to find an affordable place to live and another job. He finally caught a break, auditioning at a comedy club with jokes about his short body and very young looks. They loved him and he’s gone on to do very well there. He even got big kudo’s and congratulations from big time comic and actor Sinbad. He bravely turned what had seemed to be a liability into a huge asset.

And that, my friends, is really the long and short of it all. I think we should all take a look at ourselves and those around us who we may be able to help and see if we can take what we think is a weakness or liability and come up with a way that we might be able to turn it into a big asset.