I saw a boy with only one hand pitch a baseball in Nashville, Tennessee. I have never seen anything like it. Not before. Not since.
I sat beside his mother in their backyard and watched.
“He don’t even play on a team,” his mother said. “Truth be told, he’s not into baseball. He’s really into Star Wars.”
It all started when his little brother needed help batting for Little League. It was Big Brother who learned how to pitch by watching YouTube. They practiced in the backyard.
The kid turned out to be a good ball player. His mother says this is because he believes he can do anything.
“I mean he REALLY thinks he has no limits,” his mother says. “He’ll try anything.”
You can see it on his face. He is everything I hope to be in when I grow up. And he’s not even twelve.
I asked the boy if I could write about him. He said, “Don’t write too much.”
Then he smiled. “And can you make my name be Luke Skywalker? Then I can read it at school and everyone will be jealous!”
Then, he and his brother pretended to sword fight, in front of me.
A few months ago, I watched a man ride a bike half way up Pike’s Peak mountain in Colorado. The man was seventy-two. There was a line of traffic behind him while he pedaled.
His calves were shaped like slabs of limestone. His skin looked like old wood. He rode with a clot of younger cyclists and held his own.
When I talked to him afterward, he smelled like sweat, onions, and a retired jockstrap.
He started biking at age sixty-six when his wife left him.
“I was stuck in the house,” he said. “Couldn’t find the willpower to go anywhere. I was just eating crap, and totally depressed.”
His daughter in Minneapolis bought a bike online and had it shipped to his house. She hoped the fresh air would do him good.
It did. One evening, he was riding to the supermarket, he felt so good he didn’t stop pedaling. He kept going. And going. He rode forty miles.
“Took me four months to recover,” he said. “I had muscles on top of muscles that were sore.”
And a cyclist was born.
Miss Ornetta is a pianist. She’s in her nineties now, but she still plays. Her hands hurt in the mornings, but she uses aspirin and exercises to keep them loose.
I visited her once and saw her play, “Stardust,” “Paper Moon,” “Georgia,” and “The Very Thought of You.”
Then, Miss Ornetta offered me three fingers of single malt Scotch whiskey. I declined. I don’t drink Scotch, it tastes like commercial paint remover.
“Scotch is good for the heart and brain,” she said. “It’ll prolong your life if you don’t drink the cheap stuff.”
Behold, the wisdom of the elderly.
I asked Ornetta how she learned to play piano.
“I was seventy,” she said. “It was after my husband died of a heart attack. I needed therapy, and I don’t like to crochet.”
She drove two hours to Atlanta to take lessons. At home, Ornetta practiced for eight, sometimes ten hours per day.
“I’m not exceptional,” she said. “But I accredit my success to good genes, church, and Scotch.”
She still lives on her own—most of the time. But right now, Ornetta is reading this while recovering from hip surgery. The doctor says no Scotch until she’s fully recovered and off meds.
So if you’re still reading this—and I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t—I wish I had more to offer you before you start this day. Because these stories plus a dime won’t even buy you a lukewarm cup of coffee.
But I wanted to tell them to you just the same, so you’d know that someone sees you.
Me. I see you. Sort of. I see you in Walmart. I see behind you in traffic. I see you play piano in your den while you sip Johnny Walker. I see you ride up a mountain. I see you in a Mexican restaurant.
I want you to know that even though we don’t know each other, this stranger is rooting for you to win.
Luke Skywalker, tell your class I said “Hi.”