Not Just a Glove

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

When I was very young, I recall seeing the neighborhood boys coming home on Saturday evenings in their baseball uniforms covered in red dirt with bats propped on their shoulders.
I knew I shouldn’t ask Nanny if I could play because when I was that age, there was no room in the budget for extracurricular activities. As you can imagine a young boy doing, I still asked every season.  During the spring before my 11th birthday, my Uncle Tommy came over with what has had a greater impact on me as a grown man than it did as a child.
He brought over a new glove, a bat and the registration for me to play baseball. Of those items listed, the baseball glove is unique because the player wears it more than he swings the bat. It is what he needs to catch the ball, but more importantly, it wasn’t a glove, it was my glove.
This act of kindness not only filled a 10 year old boy with excitement, but has filled my adult heart with the same level of generosity. I watched with pride as Nanny wrote my name on the side in black marker and then I started the task of oiling it up for my first practice.
This story does not end with me being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It ends with an understanding that small acts of kindness that you do for a child will reap benefits not only for you, but for the child who is the recipient.
Each of you reading this likely has similar stories.  I often reflect on Uncle Tommy’s actions that day, as well as several others throughout my childhood.  It reminds me that we should take advantage of any and every opportunity we have to positively impact a child. It doesn’t require a purchase or a trip to Disney Land.  It simply requires you to recognize a need, no matter how small and fulfill that need.
A very simple, “You can do whatever you put your mind to” may be something that child remembers once they are grown.  Don’t minimize the time you can spend lifting that child up. It is highly likely you won’t see the results for years to come.  We have many opportunities in Shelby County for you to make an impact.  Big Brothers Big Sisters, Family Connection, the DAY Foundation, and the Owens House are just a few organizations that assist at-risk youth in a structured manner.
Although these agencies will gladly accept any donation you have to offer, what is most significant is your time.  Spending time at school functions, such as games or PTO meetings may also offer you a glimpse into a deserving child’s life. You are not just investing in an activity or a cause, you are investing in the life of someone that will soon make choices to either contribute to society or be a burden to society.
I thanked Uncle Tommy again for my glove when he came to Nanny’s funeral over 20 years later. As his eyes watered, I saw how much his act of kindness still resonated in both of us to this day. He gave me a very early lesson in generosity that has multiplied 100 times in my life and it all started because of a glove.