Back when I was working with CityTeam, a local non-profit, we had lots of interaction with professional athletes as donors. It was the heyday of the 1980’s 49ers and lots of hall of fame players were very active in philanthropy. There was Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, Merton Hanks, Jerry Rice, and Joe Montana. In our group the “old man” who had been around the longest and known most of these guys was Don Pitts.
I had heard that he made several t-shirts for a benefit, and had Merton Hanks sign them. I had just attended a signing with Jerry Rice and had him sign a football and a Wheaties box with his photo on it. Over the years my friends had given me a signed Jerry Rice 49er game helmet, his SF Jersey, a couple of game balls, etc. so the Wheaties box was no big thing to me at the time…. Or so I thought.
At the prospect of giving up anything “Jerry” my kids whined a little, but to be honest it was my decision, and me having the second thoughts. After all, a Jerry anything was worth far more than a Merton anything, and Don had a stack of the T-shirts. I informed him that the box was not available.
Being the gentleman Don is, he said nothing and gave me a couple of the T-shirts anyhow. The years went by, my wife and I were divorced, the man-cave was disbanded, all of my 49er trivia somehow dissipated and moved into my much smaller (because it has to double as a sound studio) garage. Every time I went into the studio to play music, which was quite often, I would see the Wheatie box and think of Don. There was always an accompanying pang of guilt, and a firm commitment to try to get hold of him and give him his box.
The guilt got a little worse every time I thought of him, his kindness, and my own selfishness. The phone call to the people he had worked with to see if he could be located was never made. The times that the guilt pricked away at me are too numerous to count. It wasn’t until one of my friends actually LinkedIn with Don that the “update” came over my computer stating that Don was now friends with Mike, and that the God of my understanding was putting him in front of me for a decision.
Don was contacted and graciously said that yes, indeed he would still very much appreciate my sending him the Wheatie box, settling my 11 year old debt. He had never said a word to me about it, which probably added to my torture. Why is it that sometimes it takes an act of God to get us to do the right thing?
The simple act of going down to get a box to mail this thing to Don has made me feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. If such a simple thing can have such an effect on my view of myself, how many other things can we think of that are things we can “set right?” Have we shorted someone on a bonus due, refused to pay a commission or a referral, carried a grudge, backstabbed someone, or took home an extra ream of paper from work without asking the boss?
These things affect our karma, and how we regard ourselves. Together they can form an unpardonable weight. Each acts like a tiny stone in the backpack we carry around with us every day. Empty that pack and you will walk much taller.