Lately, it seems, when I get news from my beloved Sonoran Desert it’s filled with vibrations that chill my soul, tales of senate and assembly bills that threaten the well being of some of its citizens, tales of students being denied studies that motivate them to reach for great things in their lives, tales of books being banned that inspire critical thinking.
But the other day I received a bit of refreshing E-News from the College of Education at my alma mater, the University of Arizona, that made me feel vibes that made me want to sing “U of A! U of A!”
It was about UA athletes sharing fun and exercise with “little wildcats” during the university’s second annual Track and Field Day, teaching them how to become and stay healthy.
These first through fourth graders got to play outdoors in fresh air on a wonderful day, running and jumping in individual events and in relays, under the mentoring of superbly fit and well trained college athletes like some of them might become some day. My kind of story. A story of love and giving. I applaud the track team for gifting these kids with such a wonderful life experience.
It reminded me of my days, 1956 through 1960, proudly wearing the red and blue, for the U of A, playing basketball in old Bear Down gym; speaking to school assemblies and doing mini-clinics at various recreation centers; kids looking up to me, punching me in the ribs with their pencils and paper seeking autographs, occasionally asking me, “Will you take a picture with me?” with mom and dad there with camera in hand ready to capture the moment, my grin as wide as theirs as it was as much an honor for me as it was for them.
I grew up doing the same, chasing after Arizona Wildcat greats like Ken Cardella and Roger Johnson and Linc Richmond and Eddie Wolgast and Fred Enke, Jr. and Allan Stanton and Fred Batiste and Oscar Carrillo. I savored every moment they were willing to give me with my star filled eyes.
That’s exciting stuff for kids. And it’s also exciting for the athletes who give of themselves to young people who adore them and want to be like them. It can set a tone for the rest of a jock’s life, developing in him or her a sense of the needs children have for direction, for companionship, for friendship, for a little bragging rights when sharing with their peers.
The reward for the effort is priceless. A couple of years ago, at an Arizona basketball game during a reunion with my teammates of long ago, a man about 60 years old came up to me and said “I’m sure you don’t remember me but you came to my school when I was in elementary and talked to us about life and hanging in there when times get rough and staying in school and all that kind of stuff. And you dunked for us. I’ll always remember that. It’s so good to see you here today.” That left me a little teary eyed and proud to just be a human being able to affect somebody like that.
I read three of the thank you notes that the little budding athletes wrote to the Arizona track team. A couple of them said they really liked the “relay” and in my way of thinking that means that they have the capability throughout their life to work with others, to cooperate in positive ways in pursuit of worthy goals – because relay events are all about running a distance and passing a baton to a teammate with a kind of one for all and all for one mentality. All that’s needed is someone encouraging them to entertain such thoughts in their schools and in their homes and neighborhoods and towns along the way.
Anyway, I’ll just savor such thoughts because such thinking creates vibes within me that inspire hope for the making of a better world.
In the meantime: Go! Go! Wildcats! Go!