John O’Leary learns firsthand why Jack Buck kept showing up for him throughout his childhood.
- Dozens of visits to my burn center hospital room
- Creating John O’Leary day at the ballpark
- Sending me a signed baseball teaching me how to write
- Sending 59 additional balls after the first one
- Gifting me his priceless Hall of Fame crystal baseball
- Being a friend when I desperately needed one
This list captures just a fraction of the kindness Jack Buck showed me throughout his life. As a child, I never understood why he was so generous. Even after his death, I couldn’t comprehend why he did so much, so selflessly for some random little boy.
A few years ago I asked his son, Joe, to meet for coffee. I wanted to thank him for all the Buck family did for me. They profoundly changed my life and their compassion uplifted my entire family. Before departing, I asked why his dad had been so radically generous. Without hesitating, Joe responded:
“John, it was the look of joy in your eyes every time he was with you that kept bringing him back.”
I’ve thought frequently about Joe’s answer since our visit. Last weekend at a little boy’s house 250 miles away from my home, though, I finally came to truly appreciate what he meant.
John O’Leary meets a special young friend Deyvion who shows him the importance of showing up for others.
I first met Deyvion through an email sent to our office last March. The email shared the details of how he was burned terribly as a four-month-old baby, the profound struggles he faced after and the scars that still cover him. It also described an eight-year-old boy with incredible courage, unmatched sweetness and contagious joy.
Because of the publicity of the work we do, we are fortunate to receive emails sharing inspiring stories like Deyvion’s quite often. We try our best to respond with a note of encouragement, a little care package to the family and the promise that we’re here to support them on the journey forward.
What began as a simple email a year ago has continued to expand. Deyvion feels a connection to me because of the scars that unite us, hands that looks similar and his desire to one day be an author. So I sent him a copy of my book, encouraged him to begin writing his, and to let me know how we can help. The video his mother shared as he opened the package with incomparable delight moved me to tears.
In another of our conversations he talked excitedly about the Kansas City Chiefs football team. After learning he was a huge Patrick Mahomes fan, we sent him a game-ready jersey. Again, the video of him opening the jersey, shrieking with delight and putting it on moved me to tears.
Recently, we heard of some difficult surgeries he’ll soon require to continue his recovery. We wanted to do more to encourage him and provide something positive to look forward to as he heals.
Deyvion has always dreamed of going to a big indoor waterpark, going down slides and just playing like all the other kids.
So last Saturday we loaded up the minivan, made our way to Deyvion’s home, knocked on the door and surprised him with donuts. As the initial shock from this little boy slowly faded, we talked and then I handed him a certificate for a couple nights at a massive indoor waterpark to look forward to after he heals.
As we wrapped up our visit, hugged goodbye and promised to stay in touch, I saw not only a smile on his face, but brilliant, contagious, beautiful joy in his eyes. Again, tears filled my eyes as I thought back to Joe Buck’s answer to why his dad kept visiting:
“It was the look of joy in your eyes that kept bringing him back.”
Life isn’t easy, this will make it better.
My friends, life is hard. And in a world where many look for evidence of things that divide, diminish, cause pain or excuse poor behavior, let’s seek to be the ones who unify, elevate, reflect hope and take positive action.
No, it won’t eradicate disease, end poverty or alter the many struggles that remain ahead. Yet the very act of showing up, sharing love, being kindness and offering encouragement will in fact change the world one life at a time.
Just don’t be surprised when the very first life that changes is your own.
This is your day. Live Inspired.