There are many kinds of poverty.
During the MLB National League Championship Series, I have observed a stark demonstration of poverty: the very impoverished behavior of an exceptional individual. He is talented, capable, skilled and highly paid. But, by the way he plays and the way he behaves, he shows a deep, deep poverty. He is impoverished in character.
The both fortunate and unfortunate thing about character is that it’s consistent. How one speaks, behaves, performs, and responds all tend to point in a single direction. They follow the same course, here, there and everywhere. As I have heard it expressed, “We are the same in every room.”
The both good and bad thing about character is that it is learned. Not necessarily taught, but learned. We learn it from the people, places and opportunities around us. We are shaped by our circumstances, environments, boundaries and consequences. In these, we are guided or we are not. We learn from these. We are shaped by these. For good or not.
If we are well-guided, we are propelled, as far as our talents will take us and beyond this, by our character which carries us. But if we are not well guided, if we get a “pass” on poor behavior or are excused because of “extenuating circumstances” when we are young and formative, then the results are often grim.
I have been watching grim in the NLCS.
Let’s take this All-American opportunity in the celebration of our national past time to address this truth: an excellent rating in the skills portion while dismissing the failing grade earned in spirit of the game is the worst kind of poverty.
If life’s teachers, coaches, mentors, guardians, parents, friends and colleagues issue us a smile and a pass because we’re “gifted,” while it may seem harmless, it may be the greatest of tragedies. For, if life allows us to get a failing grade in relationships, we fail at life. Because, in the end, it’s all we have. Or we don’t.
There are many kinds of poverty. There are many who are in need. Who missed Manny?
I just love to compete! folks say to me, pretty much never.
I’m not the competitive type, they say, pretty much always.
And then they cut each other off in conversation. One-up each other in accomplishments. Go off about something on Facebook. Cannot believe that offending patron! Swerve around that maniac who is texting while driving. While on the way to run this place the way it should be run. Every day. Even on Sundays.
Not competitive, though. We’re above this. Don’t dirty my hands with that sort of thing. It will all work out in the end, they say. Always does, right? Let’s not keep score. That way, everyone wins. Everyone goes home happy.
Nope. Not the competitive type.
Watch out for these folks. Don’t let ’em fool you. Because last time I checked we were all doing the same thing: playing to win at a game none of us can avoid losing.
What these people who ‘don’t like to compete’ are really saying is that they don’t like to keep score. They don’t want to be measured, because measuring shows where we stand. It tells how we’re doing, how far we’ve come, and which direction we’re moving.
It shows us who is ahead which is, for now, who is winning.
Oh, but quantifying this makes it so cold and unforgiving, they say. Where is your compassion? your kindness? your empathy? Where is your humanity, woman?
Daniel Murphy just loves to compete.
As he strides to the plate we know his current batting average, his on-base percentage, his tally of homeruns, RBIs, and extra base hits. We know how well he does with runners in scoring position, how many times he’s walked, been hit by a pitch and scored. We know how many times he has faced this particular pitcher, how he’s fared, and therefore, how this particular match-up is likely to go.
We love measuring. we love predicting. we love evaluating the odds to see what the chances are. These days we know everything because we measure it. everything, that is, except what will happen this time.
The only one paying no attention is Daniel Murphy. He’s just looking for a hit.
He’s not thinking about the hours of preparation that brought him to this moment. He’s not worrying about the last time he faced this pitcher. He’s even immune to the boo’s from the crowd (which, may I say NY, is poor form?) which actually signify how well he’s done against his former team.
No. Murphy has one thing on his mind: this pitch. And with all of the wizardry he can muster and all of the artistry at his command, he is focused on getting his bat on this ball and putting it somewhere where no one can catch it. He’s looking to get on base. And then to get to the next base and the next and then finally home.
Daniel’s serious about this game. He plays to win it. And he seems to be having the time of his life!
Fast balls, curve balls, splitters, cutters and change-ups. Bring ’em high and tight or low and outside. Throw ’em all. The best in the game do, as the best in the game will. That’s what he knows will make him the best in the game. That’s the fun of it.
Who’d want to play a game where there was no winner? We’re made to measure.