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Early this year, Rapid River Magazine, a well established arts and culture publication located in North Carolina, asked if I would be interested in writing a monthly column for them. But there was one condition, I would write about anything I wanted. Thinking it over for two seconds I said, “Absolutely”, and decided to call it, ‘Ponder This’. The following is from the March issue, titled: Second Chances.

I was feeling down, downright sad in fact and wondering why. You know the feeling. You’re sitting there staring into space and listening to the tick of the clock on the wall. Odd you think, wondering if you’ve ever noticed it before, but it’s hard to identify what it is that has you down. Things are going well, and you’ve got plans for the day and yet there it is, that blanket of fog—some might call it depression. It happened to me the other day and I needed to snap out of it and get going. Afterall, I had clients pressing me with deadlines and our son was getting married in another week, and family would soon be arriving from out of town. There was no time to be sitting and yet there I was. I think it was the question that kept me in the chair. Where did this question come from? What caused it and why now…?

The realization began to emerge when I remembered hearing about the funeral. It was a few days past now and the service was for someone I had never even met. Perhaps you knew him as well and you were shocked when you heard the news. That’s right, Kobe Bryant, who died suddenly in a tragic helicopter accident with his young daughter and seven others. But that was more than two weeks ago, and I had never even followed him. In fact, I had stopped watching basketball after the Phoenix Suns had made their run to the Championship back in the 90’s. As I sat, I realized Kobe was possibly the reason I had stopped watching. It was because of the personal issue he had with a woman who had accused him of a crime. Kobe had his side of the story to be sure and the matter was settled out of court, and no one will ever really know what happened. But after his death, stories began to emerge about the man. Kobe, I learned was devoted to his four daughters and his wife. He also supported and served with several nonprofits, dedicated to the disadvantaged. I had never heard any of this and that is because Kobe was doing these works quietly with no apparent effort to rehabilitate his public image. Perhaps what Kobe had gone through had somehow changed him?

But why was I blue and where did this hole in my heart come from? And then it dawned on me, I was grieving the loss of Kobe. He was an incredible basketball player, certainly one of the greatest of all time. The stories also mentioned his drive and work ethic, to be the very best he could be. And I admired him for that, but even more so that he had learned from life and was changed it seems by his mistake. This says much about the man but to be honest, my depression had something to do with taking a closer look at myself. Yes, I was grieving a loss, yet also I was grieving what I had done. Sure, he disappointed me, but I had written him off, and not only him but the entire sport that he was associated with. And then three years ago, I had given up on professional football as well. A conscious decision, it was based on the whole kneeling thing, I believe you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t agree with the protest and don’t believe politics should have anything to do with sports. Isn’t that why we turn to sports, in order to escape from all of that?

But there I sat, reflecting on all of this while realizing something about myself that was quite ugly. I had judged the actions of Kobe and a few others, lashing back with a protest of my own, against the entire NBA and NFL. I swallowed hard and then thought about how they say Americans are a forgiving people, and I prayed, asking the Lord to forgive me for being so hard hearted. I was then at peace with Kobe and the others and I was also at peace within myself. Deciding to give sports a second chance I believe I discovered something about myself. In the future I will try to be slower to judge others and hopefully a little quicker to forgive. Headed for the kitchen with coffee on my mind, I was ready to start the day. “Thanks, Kobe for what you taught me and thanks also for what you gave to all of us.”

Kobe and Gianna Bryant

2 comments on “– Second Chances –

  1. J Poulin says:

    Mark, that was a good bit of soul-searching that spanned over years.  Even though you didn’t know Kobe personally, it shows we all care about one on one relationships, even from a distance.  I’m glad you’ve decided to write for Rapid River, I enjoy your musings. Jim Poul


    1. Thanks for dropping in Jim and also for your kind words. Sometimes it seems we don’t understand the connection we share with others until they are gone. I have discovered this about myself on more than one occasion after loosing someone. I believe it is a reminder that we should value the time we have together and we should also value and honor all people. After all, we are each created in God’s image. Hmm… Now that is something to ponder and quite possibly the premise for a good tale.

      Take care, Mark


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