If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
This weekend I heard a St. Louis writer named John O'Leary speak. Scheduled as the main attraction at a local charity's annual “Author’s Brunch” fundraiser O’Leary told a profound story. His memoir begins with a tragic accident as a 9-year-old boy. When he innocently tries to imitate older neighborhood kids playing with fire, he ignites an explosion fueled by gasoline fumes. Thrown across the garage, 100% of his body burned, it’s medically predicted that he can not recover from his injuries. He has no chance to live.
Enter one person. An individual whose voice O’Leary knew well as a child. Broadcaster Jack Buck, the radio voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, who lived in the living rooms and imaginations of countless fans, felt like the familiar voice of a favorite uncle to the child. Hearing of the little boy’s injuries, Buck visited him in the hospital. As I recall from the talk, O’Leary said he recognized the voice who said, “Hey, kid. Wake up. You are going to live! We’re going to have John O’Leary Day at the ballpark. You’re going to love it!” This same voice and message returned day after day for weeks. Just 8-second visits — as he learned later, Buck would become tearful and couldn’t speak — the little boy listened, even as he lay with eyes swollen shut and arms and legs immobilized.
Gradually, the little boy got better. Jack Buck’s visits and many, many other individual acts of kindness and love from others helped lead to O’Leary’s healing. He did get his own day at the ballpark. And for years his injuries created lots of other challenges — think of being scarred as a teenager — but the totality of the experience is now a life and message that is authentic and inspiring.
What stuck with me is Jack Buck’s example of the impact of a single person and an act of kindness. To an outsider, how much affect could an 8-second visit have against the odds of such serious injury? Especially since there was no response, no validation for Buck that it made a difference.
In my experience as a professional marketer, I’m used to the strategies of a goal being measured by the scope and scale of an effort. The focus is on how big an impact one can make. Here, in sharp contrast, O’Leary’s testimony bears witness to the significance of a small act. But instead of being insignificant it turns out to be profoundly important. Life saving.
Update on exploring steps to write a book:
Writing 30 minutes/day: Today is Day 50. Some days the writing is unsalvageable; other times worth building on. I’m learning these 30-minute surges are starting to become a habit — good, but challenging to actually build toward producing a longer blog, worth publishing on my website. This will be my focus this next week. However, I am traveling on business so potentially doubly hard.
Research similar authors: As mentioned last week I’ve started Sue Monk Kidd's Secret Life of Bees. I’m loving the pace. Every piece of dialogue, every thought the main character shares carries such momentum. The reader is dropped into the complexity of relationships like landing right in the middle of a spider’s web. You’re immediately connected to all these sticky tendrils of family, external events, provocative people. In fact, my sectional heading here is “similar authors” - I aspire to ever be a similar author — this amazing writing is a steep standard.
Do you have any favorite books you think I should add to my reading list? I welcome ideas from any book genre.
Finally, one last thought inspired by John O’Leary’s story. Desmond Tutu said,“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Let’s overwhelm the world this week!