“Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!” 20 years ago a father yelled this encouragement to his chubby, baseball-loving son on a baked, dirt infield at Elliot Park near downtown Minneapolis. That chubby kid never forgot that piece of advice.
For some reason my dad’s encouragement at that patchy, scrubby baseball field has resonated in my head a lot recently. I am not really sure why. Anyone who’s read John Piper’s books or has listened to him preach knows that he has made some profound, challenging, mind-blowing, tongue-twisting, soul-wrenching statements. But what I remember most is that “Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!”
A child remembers those things that matter most to him. What mattered to me was baseball and Kirby Puckett, yes. But more than that what mattered was that my father knew that those things mattered to me. He knew just what to say to keep my stubby legs churning to that first base and to every first base in every baseball and church softball game in the decades since. He knew that Kirby Puckett would inspire more hustle than any bribe, threat, platitude, cliché, or bombast ever could. He knew me.
What matters to me now, that neither my dad nor I could have known then, is that this advice still rings in my ears. It has morphed from a simple encouragement to run hard into an encouragement to parent just as hard. My dad was parenting hard on that summer day at the park, and it matters to me 20 years later. In this same way I want my parenting to resonate with my girls in the decades to come.
What will encourage my children in that unique, poignant way that gets them going and sticks with them? What matters to them that can be spring boarded into motivation and memories? Am I paying attention to what they love so that I can be part of indelible memories and live in their minds as a blessing for the next decades of their lives?
“Kirby Puckett NEVER jogs to first base!” See dad, I was listening. It’s just not what you thought I would remember.