Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dear Coach

At 3:00 am this morning I received the following email:

I've wanted to stop playing soccer. It's just not fun anymore. You even told me once that it is a game and we play it to have fun. I don't feel any motivation in myself to go and kick a ball by myself anymore, and I hate my training sessions. If I do stop then all my work i have put in would be a waste. Soccer is also the only I'm doing here aside from school. My parents don't know that I still feel this way because I want to get somebody else's opinion before I tell them exactly how I feel. The other reason I haven't said anything is because this has happened about a month ago too. 

 I need some advice on what to do.


Long in the Mouth, Short on the Cleats (My addition as editor)

I sent this former player the following response, and thought it worthy of sharing.  All specific references have been removed for privacy,

Dear Friend;

Thank you for honoring me with your request.  I could get into the strength of character required to ask another's advice, or that I too am facing decisions that will alter the course of my life; but that is not what you are seeking.

In your request I see personal growth and maturity, but I also see a telltale characteristic of a quality.  This character trait is deference to your elders, your parents, your past; and how you might choose your own path without dishonoring the efforts of those who brought you to where you are.  The fact that you are even hesitating to act is not a lack of confidence or indecision, it is a fear of not honoring others.  This is an amazing personal trait for anyone, let alone a young man in the middle of yet another life fluxing move to yet another new city.  So . . .

You are right, I did say, "If you aren't having fun, you should put down the cleats and find something that does make you happy."  And hating the training sessions can be motivation enough to walk away from the game.  Understand that any efforts you have put into becoming the player you are today will not be lost if you walk away, you have worked as an individual and as a member of a team, you have overcome obstacles individually and as a team.  You have had to work with new people on short notice and better still, you have had to work with people you don't even like to accomplish common goals.  Those skills will serve you well for the remainder of your life.

But let's look at what you are missing from your soccer life at this moment; friends, a coach who makes the work of the game fun, and the constant interaction with Dad (For good or ill)  You were always a team player, you never felt that you could lift the team on your shoulders and carry them through thick and thin, you reveled in doing the best you could with the roles you knew.  When I came along and challenged you to another role, you were scared and wary, but you threw yourself into the learning and the work, and it worked out well for both of us.  But you also had the constant ribbing and interaction with a group of players who you had played with for years, they both challenged you and encouraged you in the manner of peer pressures that only school aged boys can.  

There is nothing I can do for your coach/trainer, they will have developed their own style, mannerisms and favorites long before you arrived and so cracking inside that shell will be difficult.  But the constant interaction of parent to child is not to be underestimated, nor over-played;  your parents love you for who you are, not what you have done or will do, but just because you are who you are.  This is something you should never lose sight of; they are an invaluable resource of ideas, encouragement and support.  And so they will ultimately respect you and your decision.

Moving at your age is something I had to do, and it was awful, while the game of soccer was available, I never truly embraced it until after I was in college; the joys of childhood football in England were never equaled in the US until I was invited as a young man to ply my talents on the pitch by my peers who saw more in my than I did in myself at the time. But I digress.  

My suggestions: tell you parents (ask them to hear, not judge, and not to try and fix things today), consider sticking around the game by doing the refereeing clinics and earning a little pocket change, and seek out the activities that do make your heart jump for joy - music, academics, reading, writing, art, bowling, running, for all I know bird-watching.  And then seek out others with similar passions, then find those who are non-judgmental and open to sharing the same joys; these will be the friends of a lifetime

It won't be easy, in fact it will be one of the hardest things you have had to do in a hard life; but the rewards will be a life filled with joy and filled with the pursuit of your happiness.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Auld Lang Syne

“2012 was the hardest year of my life, and yet I am having a hard time saying good bye to it...but 2013 is here whether I like it or not. God give me strength.” – Lizy Coleman 1/1/13

Auld Lang Syne.  It is the song that greets the New Year, but what does it mean?  It is sung to such a baleful and woe filled tune. As the dirge wafts through the night, I can see myself trying to huddle around a miserable little excuse of a fire with my Highland friends (All apologies to the Richies, Allans, Wigneys, Rennies and any surrogate Scots), as we try to stave off the encroaching cold and damp from the ever present mist.  Where is the happiness of a New Year? Why the sad faces? Is this not the chance for a new beginning?

In 1788, Robert Burns, arguably the finest Poet Scotland has ever produced, penned the poem that became the song.  It is a drinking song that calls upon a person not to forget their friends even as they drink a ‘cup o’kindness’  And drink they would given the reference to a Scottish pint or 60 oz of refreshing ale.  And yet we sing it as a dismissory song to the year just passed, and in other parts of the world it is used at funerals and graduations.

Consider the words of the first stanza as it is the theme of the remainder:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne! 

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Shall we forget our friends, shall they forever be relegated to pits of relationships that will never be rekindled but sit frozen in the past? And then in exclamation the same is repeated but with the warning that all the time, learning and growth that came from those connections will be lost in the “auld lang syne” in the old long since. 

But the poet defiantly replies in chorus:
-For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne
For old long since, my dear; for all the bygone times my friend, for all the memories since we first met; We’ll drink a toast in a quiet nod of the head to you my friend and toast the times we have spent together since we first met.

And on it goes for four more verses detailing the times gone by, the memories of a long standing friendship interspersed with the chorus reminder that there will be no forgetting the strength and power in friendships won through time and struggle.

It is fitting for this moment.  There is but a different date on the calendar this morning, not only has the number in the month changed, but so has the month and the year.  Today the year is 2013, while yesterday it was 2012.  But nothing has really changed, has it?  You still probably ate too much over the past week, still have dreams and goals to be accomplished, just as you accomplished some of your dreams and goals over the past period of record.

For us, we entered 2012 with a family of 4, and we left being 2½, being that Morgan considers herself halfway out the door.  We will never forget Evan, and yet little details fade with time  The hole he left does not get any smaller but we are able to better define its edges and have better knowledge of the danger zones.  Every day we wake knowing that he is not asleep in his room, that he will not be playing on his computer or drawing or reading; and that hurts in a manner that hurts in such a special and intimate way that sometimes just taking the next breath seems impossible.

But today is special, as was last night.  These times are not so much for extra special remembrances of Evan, but they have definitely been times of remembering you.  We have made so many new friends, and renewed such amazing friendships from our past.  It is to you that we raise our glass this time of year.  Friends are hard to define especially in a fast moving world of telecommunications and social media.  I had some bizarre idea that I would list all the people who sought us out in our time of need, in the times of our ongoing crisis, to share with the world all the people who have shared time, talents, and/or gifts with us.  The signs of friendship, you know, the little notes, the facebook messages, and that was before all the known and unknown thought senders and prayer warriors.

It is an impossible task and one fraught with the danger of missing a name here or there in direct conflict with our opening song.  There has been an overwhelming sea of support that lifted us up and kept us afloat when all we wanted to do was drown.  Look at what you have accomplished for us: Financially – you retired Evan’s medical debt and gave us time to grieve; Physically – you built Evan’s garden and cleaned and prepared our house to receive mourners; Mentally – you challenged us to engage and remain in the ‘game’; and Spiritually – you gave us your spirit when ours alone would not hold us up, you pointed us to a future that moves towards us with each passing second, teaching us to keep our heads up and on the horizon so that we don’t walk off the cliffs around us.

Yes, you are co-authors of this blog, and are by all rights co-founders of the Evan Coleman Foundation, Inc. The Evan Coleman Foundation is being founded to build a living legacy.  The living legacy has two legs: First is the thrust to fund research into the cancer that took Evan’s life; The second is to ensure that the efforts of the summer  (the living legacy of life, gardens, peace and personal fulfillment) be replicated for others in a testimony for Evan and what he believed. 

It is not for the Foundation to push one ideology or religion upon others, Evan would regard that as the ultimate in Christian hubris and hypocrisy.  A person who is suffering or a family in need do not need doctrine or dogma they need friends, people to come along side long enough to see an area they can support, and then get it done without expectation. 

We hope to continue a living legacy of connections.  Our situation was unique, as is the situation affecting every other person we might help; but the broad swath of support that was used to envelope us with love and warmth and shelter was an amazing construct.  It is one of the goals of the Evan Coleman Foundation to seek out unique situations of need, shed light upon those situations and in some similar manner raise up that large broadcloth of comfort, support and love to envelope and protect people from the storms of life if just for a brief respite from the wind and waves.

Besides, as attractive as the 3 wheeled John Deere is in the back yard, or the 6 foot wide tractor tire planter in the front yard may be; we are looking to find a new locale for our landscaping projects.  Blessings to you all through the New Year, and may your year ahead not be as difficult as our past one was for us.  Thank you for your love and friendship through thick and thin.  For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet, for auld lang syne.