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Small Kindnesses

Small Kindnesses

Hello and good day!

 A couple of days ago, I had the chance to spend an afternoon with my family at a lake. When the mid-afternoon sun was its hottest, I retreated to a shaded spot under the roof of a snack bar. I leaned back against the brick wall and drank in the scene.

 The lake was beautiful and big. The water was mostly dark blue, except for a bright white strip where the sun was reflecting off the surface. On the other side of the lake there was a mountain covered with dark green pines, which dominated the view.

 There were about a hundred people on the lake, kayaking, paddle boarding, rowing row boats, and fishing. In front of the snack bar, there was a long line of people waiting to buy ice cream. The lucky ones who already had their ice cream walked by licking and smiling.

 Down on the sandy shore, there were dozens of families playing and swimming and sitting on beach chairs drinking cold beverages. My children swam in a shallow part of the lake roped off for kids. My wife stood on the shore watching the kids and I stood on the wall watching her and them and everybody and everything.

 While I was watching, a man walked through my field of vision who caught my attention. He had his shirt off and he was ripped. Broad shoulders. Muscles all over. Six pack abs. Tan. He was wearing leather sandals and short dark green shorts that revealed muscular legs. He had a square jaw and three-day stubble on his face.

 He was the kind of guy who spurs other men to start making excuses. "I could look like that too you know, if it wasn't for the kids, and if I had more time, and if work wasn't so demanding." "I bet he does a job that requires physical labor."

 But it wasn't his physique that made me begin to follow him with my eyes. I only mention it because it was part of an important surprise that came later in the day. What drew my attention was the football he was carrying.

 Every three or four steps, he'd spin the ball up into the air and then catch it himself. Back and forth he walked, alone, playing catch with no partner. His kids were on the shore with their mom and once in a while he'd stop to check in. He'd squat down and kiss his wife and his two little babies and flash them a stunning white toothed smile, and then continue his pacing.

 After watching this fellow for ten minutes, it dawned on me that he was looking for somebody to play football with but couldn't find anybody and didn't know how to ask.

 As for me, I've settled into a dad bod. I have strong shoulders and arms from carrying kids. I'm balding. I have about 5 extra pounds in the gut from owning a chocolate business. But even so, I'm in good shape from walking several miles per day promoting our chocolate shops, and I'm strong. I'm a naturally good athlete and I love to play sports, especially chucking a football.

 For those reasons, I didn't feel the least bit intimidated about walking up to the Adonis. I tapped him on his bare shoulder. "You looking for somebody to play with?" I asked. He was taken aback for a moment and then his face began to gleam as if the most special thing in the world had just happened.

 "Yeah man, let's go!" he said, and he broke into a full sprint to the other side of a grass field that ran along one side of the lake. We started tossing the ball, softly at first. But as our arms warmed up and confidence in our aim grew, we really started buzzing them in there and you could hear the loud thwap of the pigskin hitting our hands.

 As we tossed, I noticed a couple of other men on the sidelines watching, longingly. They were dying to get in the game but didn't know how to ask. "You boys want in?" I shouted over to them. They came trotting out onto the field.

 With four players, you can run routes and defend and do a lot more than just play catch. We had a great time, four strangers, playing ball together. Eventually the good time came to an end, as it always must.

 The kids were cold and wanted to go eat. I told the muscular fellow that my time was up, and I thanked him for sharing his ball with me. "Thank you too man," he said. "That was so much fun!"

 His family was leaving as well, and he went off to load their stuff into the car. While he was away, his wife walked up to me. "I just want to say thank you for playing football with my husband," she said. "No need to thank me, it was a lot of fun," I said.

 "It's just that he brings that football with him everywhere we go, hoping to get a game going. But he is the shyest and most sensitive man in the world, and he doesn't know how to approach people. That was the best game I've ever seen him play. I know it made him really happy. He'll remember it. Thank you."

 "Hey, it's my pleasure. I love to play too, and your husband is a good player. Believe me, I enjoyed it as much as him."

 We said our goodbyes and I went over and shook the fellow's hand one last time. By looking at this man, you would have thought he'd be brimming with confidence, a real alpha male kind of guy.

 But he wasn't. He was the shyest man in the world. I would have terribly misjudged him if it wasn't for the football in his hands.

 One lesson here is to not judge people before you know them. Looks are almost always deceiving.

 The second lesson is that you can easily make somebody's day simply by being the first to engage. Someone needs to be the ice breaker. For whatever reason, the thought of approaching a stranger creates butterflies in your stomach.

 I don't know if it is fear of rejection or what. Aside from the nerves, though, the mechanics are not challenging at all. You just walk over and start talking.

 The third lesson is that the person who organizes the game ends up being the leader of the group. This is a very interesting lesson in leadership. Whoever put the thing together will be deferred to.

 I don't know why it works that way, but it does. I could feel these four men who were complete strangers, all more fit than I, looking to me for guidance Very interesting. That is a leadership hack. Organize a gathering and you can practice leadership.

 The fourth lesson is that you can learn lessons wherever you are.

Anyhow, I am running out of space for now. Thank you so much for your time today.

 I hope that you have a truly blessed day!