A lot happened this week, and I don’t know what I should tell you. Maybe I should tell you that I formally applied for Teach for America for the Fall 2020 school year, a potential opportunity to teach, coach, and inspire teenagers in low-income areas (more to come). Maybe I should tell you that I touched a computer for the first time in eight months, needing to be reminded how simply to turn it on. Maybe I should tell you that I met a complete stranger Tuesday who had me playing as his partner at one of the nicest courses in America not 24 hours later. For free. Or maybe I should tell you that I began my work with the PGA Pro on Thursday, putting in motion an exciting journey for the upcoming weeks and months. (I shot the best score of my life Saturday. 75. From the tips.)
But those don’t make the cut this week. I had a moment last Monday. A real human moment. And since not all of us here are golfers, but we are all humans trying to be just a little better, this one stays. Enjoy.
One of the reasons I love to travel to real places is because it helps me feel what’s real. The exciting, the heartbreaking, and everything in between. The exciting reminds me that I am alive. The in between gives me a sense of normalcy. But the heartbreaking really opens my eyes (and sometimes makes them tear up).
The heartbreaking takes my focused, sometimes aloof attitude and puts it in check. It silences me. It humbles me. It humanizes me. But most of all, it makes me question what I have done to be in my place and what someone else has done to be in theirs. There is always an answer, but it’s not the one you think.
I am lucky, and maybe you are too.
Last Monday, a cold front rolled into the Deep South. It was about 45 degrees with 35mph winds, but I’m dedicated, so the course beckoned. Warming up on the driving range directly into the wind, I hit wedge after wedge as the sand beneath the soil blew hard into my eyes.
That was enough of that, so I moseyed on over to the first tee, unsure of what was about to happen. Fast forward some five hours and 36 holes later, and I was fried (or frozen). Annoyed didn’t begin to describe it. The wind gusts had taken all of the moisture out of the greens, and putts just wouldn’t stop. It was like the US Open at Shinnecock Hills a couple of years ago, even on the uphill putts. I wanted to Phil Mickelson it more than a couple of times.
As I ended the round(s) with, miraculously, a more than acceptable score for playing in a hurricane, this is what I thought to myself. Was this a complete waste of time?
So, as I typically do, I called my dad to discuss the day. But this time, it was to vent.
Still slightly agitated from The Great Tornado of 2019, I needed to stop by the local grocery store to grab a couple of items: bottled water, toilet paper, chewy nerds, lemon Oreos, more gummies, and Sunkist orange soda. The necessities, you know.
I didn’t get a buggy, holding the case of bottled water and using it as a base. As I walked toward the checkout area with sugary nonsense piled up to my chin, I eyeballed what I thought was the shortest line, still two or three people deep. As I approached a young Hispanic couple with their toddler, the father cleared his items off the conveyor belt so that I could set down my gaggle of frivolous bullshit. He was a handsome young man probably thirty years old, and I thanked him for his gesture.
I waited my turn as he and his family checked out, only to be shaken internally when I saw him pay for their dinner with literal nickels and pennies. Before I could process what I was seeing, the transaction was complete, and they were off to enjoy a modest family meal together in, hopefully, some place warm.
Just minutes earlier, I had been bothered by having to play 36 holes in less than desirable weather. On a Monday. And let’s not forget, this is not even my living, this is a project.
And then, though the toilet paper and water (maybe) were necessities, the remaining items I was buying were excessive, fattening, gluttonous garbage.
Yet the young man, seemingly struggling to feed his family with actual dollar bills, saw me. He really saw me. And it brought a few of those tears.
I hear the terms “season of giving” and “season to be thankful” during this time of year, and I can’t help but admire its benevolent intent and even results, but squirm at its brutal seasonality.
Maybe someone got to their path via a correct decision. Maybe someone got to their path via an incorrect decision. Maybe someone was born into the correct family. Or maybe, just maybe someone simply got dealt a less than full hand of cards. Regardless, everyone deserves to be seen. Every day. I’ve been reminded of this over and over during the past few years in my travel, over and over during the past few months in Mississippi, and then again Monday.
I hope I see this young man again some time in the near future. The town isn’t that big. I want to let him know that I see him too and tell him again how thankful I was of his kind gesture.
But until then, I’ll remind myself daily of a few things. That I’m lucky. Very lucky. That I’m thankful. That I need to do better at seeing everyone. And not just from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
Have a great week.-Benj
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