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Chatterbox: Game on the tuft


This past weekend I was privileged to attend the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It wasn’t national news, but it was huge to the people involved. More importantly, it’s huge in what becomes important, ultimately, to all of us.

An afternoon filled with sports speeches just isn’t ever expected to induce soul-searching, but it can, and this one did. These speakers were real people who gave without limits for no reason, opening up new roads in the lives of others. Those others then did the same, and so on and so on, down the line – like dandelion tufts aloft across time.

Life is a big place. We, as a world population, see life on a huge scale but, even if what we do affects the world stage, life happens as we live it – in the small of it and one action at a time. Even our whole planet is a tiny fleck as it spins in the universe, and there are many universes. We are Horton’s Who, and the dandelion puff is our world. We may seem unimportant in that infinite sky, but to us, it’s exquisitely personal and encompassing.

I listened, along with over 300 other people in the room, to small “Whos” from any Whoville tell small stories of small lives. Yet, together or apart, each one is hugely significant and wholly impactful upon their little piece of the dandelion puff, and its residents.

Every single spore, which may seem unnoticed and unimportant, is of paramount importance as part of the single thread that creates the entire underpinning of our human society. Every single spore changes all that comes after it, layer upon layer and tiny spore after tiny spore. Each will ride the breeze, then share whatever benefits and lessons it freely received. Each will give to others, again and again, in the same free way. All that each of us were and are came from someone before us and is passed on to those who come after us.

In this immense reality of the world, we only have small influences to make the really important changes and make the most important impact on individuals, every single day. The greatest good, and the greatest damage, is done one small action at a time. The influence and power we have and whatever we put out there, resonates down the line.

This recent afternoon full of speeches was about sports but all the world is a playing field. If everyone plays by the rules, we have a fair game. If everyone hustles, we score a goal. The keys are to keep the playing field even, and the rules must apply to everyone.

Most interesting, one speaker pointed out that only two of the six inductees actually played sports. The others were those who made it possible, kept it together, and gave others a leg up, on or off the field. One married couple, the wife of which had since passed away, was honored for over 50 years of continual volunteering as a couple. One coach only thanked the others who helped her, never talking about her own countless, selfless acts to keep teams afloat over decades of service. She didn’t know that I knew she had even quietly sewn a base back together for a softball game.

Okay, but what does this mean to us at large? How does this afternoon of laughs and displays of generosity and love and effort affect the planet? That question requires greater introspection because, though we may not even realize it, what we do every day affects the lives of others, for better or worse. Whether it’s telling a scared kid he’ll gain speed along the base line, smiling at a stranger in a grocery line, or putting ourselves on the line, we all impact upon other lives.

Someone once asked an ornithologist how birds can fly in huge flocks and not crash into each other. He said it was because, like cars all driving in massive traffic, each one is really only affected by those directly around it, ultimately affecting the whole flock. We, too, in every way we fly, only have to affect those closest to us to affect the whole flock, but that sword cuts both ways.

The people at this ceremony gave their best. It is life in microcosm, and it’s what we’re all capable of, because the few benefit the many. If we all do our best, we’ll make our dandelion tuft the best it can be.

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