One of the things I love to do is to read. In my current life stage reading happens less than I would like, but even so I will read 15-20 books this year. They will cover the topics of leadership, sports, military history, historical fiction, spirituality, etc. Last weekend I finished “Imperfect: An Improbable Life” the story of Jim Abbott.
If you are around my age, 39, and follow sports you will remember Jim Abbott. He was a pitcher who made the big leagues and was born without his right hand. His accomplishments in sports include pitching at the University of Michigan (we’ll forgive him), winning an Olympic Gold Medal, and being drafted in the first round by the California Angels. My first memory of Jim was reading about him as a high school athlete growing up in Flint, Michigan. At some point in my youth his story was in Sports Illustrated which I grew up reading cover to cover.
There are many lessons I take away from Jim Abbott’s story. He attributes much of his success to the fact that his parents never treated him differently. They treated him just like his brothers and he was forced to adapt and overcome. I don’t know if this philosophy of parenting would work for all children but, it obviously worked in this case. He also describes many, many times of just wanting to fit in and be normal. I am certain that every day hundreds of students enter our schools with that same thought. It’s critical that we go above and beyond to meet their unique needs while also allowing them to be normal and to not stand out.
If you enjoy books on sports and human interest stories this book is worth some of your time.
This is an excerpt from the book, IMPERFECT by Jim Abbott and Tim Brown. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Abbott. Reprinted by arrangement with Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Ella is my youngest.
She has my hair and eyes and her mother’s smile. The timing is distinctly hers. She was five when she asked, quite publicly, “Dad, do you like your little hand?”
My what? Do I like it?
I had come to her preschool’s Career Day bearing baseball cards for her classmates. In the morning rush getting the girls through the front door and into the car, I’d packed into a gym bag a couple familiar baseball caps, an Olympic gold medal and a baseball glove.
I had come first as a dad, and then as a former baseball player. I’d pitched for the local team, the California Angels, and for the team everybody had heard of, the New York Yankees. I had come because I wasn’t pitching anymore, and because Ella’s mother, my wife, Dana, wryly pointed out that preschool Career Day wasn’t really for fathers who no longer had careers. The query, posted on the door of Ella’s classroom weeks before, read: “Do any of the dads have an interesting job they could come and speak to the children about?” When I arrived one afternoon to gather Ella, the answer beside her name on the door, in Dana’s handwriting, read, “No.” Calling her on the playful taunt, I’d scratched out “No” and written, “Yes – baseball” – presumably precisely as she had intended.
Ella had been excited. The classroom had hummed, curiosity over the stranger in the room sparring with the early-morning Cap’n Crunch joggling.
I’d seen hundreds of similarly occupied, similarly distracted school rooms, and every one of them put me back at my own tiny desk in my own childhood in Flint, Michigan.
At any age, I was the kid with the deformity. At Ella’s age, I was the kid with the shiny and clunky metal hook where his right hand should have been.
Thirty-five years later, classrooms remained among the few places where I was conscious of my stunted right hand. I would enter and later find I had slipped it into my front pants pocket, tethered against unconscious gesturing, signaling to the room that the details of its story would come at my choosing, if at all.