John shares proof that ALL of our stories are interconnected!
If you know my story, you know baseballs carry a special meaning to me.
As a nine-year-old burn patient struggling with a difficult recovery, 60 signed baseballs showed up one after another and taught me write again. More valuably, it taught me when someone goes out of their way for someone else, the impossible becomes possible.
Years later I graduated college and became the undeserving recipient of a priceless baseball at the age of 22. The significance of that gift, and the generosity of the man who gave it, changed the trajectory of my life.
As a dad, watching my son Patrick snag foul balls in four consecutive major league baseball seasons reminded me what happens when we return to that audacious, unguarded, optimistic mindset of a child. You’re not only more likely to catch a baseball, but far more likely to savor the game of life.
It seems whenever a baseball shows up in my life, it brings with it a lesson to apply. Such was the case earlier this year, when yet another ball landed in my mailbox. This one wasn’t off the bat of a major leaguer or signed by a Hall of Fame inductee. Instead, it was signed by a D2 baseball team in northeast Tennessee that you’ve likely never heard of, but one that I have grown to love. Let me explain.
I became self-appointed president of the Lincoln Memorial University Railsplitters Baseball Team Fan Club this past February. It happened after a man I had only recently met reached out and asked for a favor. His friend -and Railsplitters baseball coach- Justin Haywood read the book ON FIRE and planned to use it as a motivational framework for the team’s upcoming season. He wondered if I might send him a signed copy of the book. The email described ‘Coach Woody’ as someone who has “. . . done an amazing job coaching and transforming the hearts and lives of these young men.”
How do you turn down a request like that?!
So, we excitedly not only sent Coach Woody an autographed copy, but also a video of encouragement for the team ahead of their new season.
And we kept in touch with the mighty Railsplitters throughout their season. We loved the On Fire glove and cape bestowed upon the ‘On Fire’ player of the game. We learned of the special On Fire tee shirt the winner of that game’s title took home with them. And we cheered their best start in school history, 10-0.
The Railsplitters were living on fire on and off the field!
The team went on to boast a regular season record of 31-18 and entered the playoffs. As they did, I received in the mail a team jersey, a signed baseball, and a special letter from Coach Woody. He shared appreciation for the help guiding his team forward and added this beautiful closing:
“Most importantly, thank you for sharing your story. We are called to this earth for something special, and your impact is being felt in more ways than you can dream of. You are an inspiration to me and my team to be better every day and to love fearlessly.”
My friends, I share this story not to brag, but to impress upon you an important lesson Coach Woody teaches. And universal lessons we all need to hear:
YOUR story matters…even when you don’t know it.
YOU are called to this earth for something special…show up for it.
YOUR impact is being felt in more ways than you can dream of…prepare for it.
And YOU are a called to be better every day by loving fearlessly…act like it.
The Railsplitters advanced through the playoffs and even competed in the championship game. Although one of the most successful seasons in school history ended with a defeat, Coach Woody reminded his team of the transformative power to remain on fire not merely for what they did on the field, but with the possibility of all they would accomplish applying the lessons learned this season off the field.
And if you thought the story would end there, you’ve not spent enough time around here.
Weeks later in Scottsdale (far away from northeast Tennessee) I spoke at a conference. When attendees were asked to share one thing they were grateful for in a follow up email, a woman in the audience replied that when she thought about gratitude, she thought about her son.
Despite being told by a coach growing up that he’d never be good enough to play college ball, he had worked hard, persevered and was having the season of his life. He’d even been named player of the game four times! Her pride was obvious and joy contagious, and we told her so.
When her son returned home from college for the summer, he walked in as she was mid-reply to our email. He saw John O’Leary’s name on his mom’s laptop screen and couldn’t believe it.
He told his mom the story behind his baseball team’s theme for the season, which until that moment she thought was a simple catch phrase. She then sent us a photo of Mom and son walking arm-in-arm while wearing Coach Woody’s player-of-the-game tees. We couldn’t have loved it more.
Friends, our successes, our failures and our stories are all connected. And it is in this connection that is born the opportunity to transform hearts and lives.
This is your day. Channel your inner Railsplitter. And Live Inspired.