L: you going to the basketball game tonight?
A: you’ll be sitting behind the basket?
A: wishing you were the coach?
A: and yelling like a lunatic?
L: some people call that passionate
A: see you there
L: oh and you may not want to sit with me
L: bc i have a new job
L: and i can’t be distracted
A: oh you’re working the concession stand again?
A: i mean eating all the hot pretzels and skittles?
A: i mean working the concession stand?
So it’s January 23rd. Summit’s varsity basketball team is facing New Providence at home and the high school gymnasium is packed. Standing-room only packed. Student section is decked out in Hawaiian garb complete with leis and sunglasses, all the while stamping their feet on the bleachers and chanting - let’s go Summit clap clap clap clap clap.
At this game, Laura and Angie sit cramped together amongst the crowd, half way up the stands, behind the basket. And then Angie notices something. Laura has a small square of paper and a pencil. And she’s periodically making little tally marks on this small square of paper. Wait, what is she doing?
So Angie asks Laura, um, wtf are you doing? And Laura casually says, I’m keeping track of the rebounds. So Angie says, why are you keeping track of the rebounds? Are you ok? And Laura says, don’t distract me. You just made me miss one, was that Joe or Chuck who grabbed that last one?
During the one minute break between the first quarter and the second quarter, Laura explains to Angie that she’s been asked to keep track of the rebounds at the varsity games. She’s been asked to do this by Steve. Um, who’s Steve?
Steve. Grew up in Indiana. Raised his family in Summit. Self-proclaimed high school sports nut. Hasn’t missed a Summit high school football game since 1971. Started keeping player stats by hand in 1990 when he retired from his job as an engineer. Created a website five years later to share his intel and added in sports schedules and colorful commentary. No one asked him to do this. He does this because he loves it. He’s 90 years old. And he recently ‘hired’ a new staff member.
The new staff member is killing it.
Fast forward to halftime. Laura turns to Angie and whispers, this is my favorite part. Angie watches as a piece of a candy bar, wrapper intact, gets passed through the stands, until it arrives at Laura’s seat. Laura looks up and waves at Steve to acknowledge her receipt of the one-third Milky Way. Angie is intrigued and full of questions. Laura says, I’ll explain it to you later.
A: milky way at halftime?
L: first time i did the rebounds for steve i was sitting next to him so he could make sure i did them right
L: at halftime, he pulled out a full-size dark chocolate milky way and cut it into 3 equal pieces with his pocket knife
L: he handed me a piece but i didn’t take it
L: i just said no thanks
L: funny thinking about that now
L: because i didn’t take my piece at the next game either
L: or the one after that
L: but he offered it every time
L: finally, someone said to me ‘laura, take the damn milky way’
So Laura and Angie end up in a serious conversation about a one-third piece of a Milky Way.
Why didn’t she just accept it?
Maybe she didn’t think she needed a reward.
Maybe she didn’t want to impose.
Maybe she didn’t want to ruin dinner.
Epiphany alert: it’s hard to accept things, many things.
It’s hard to accept favors or help when they’re being offered.
We’re used to saying no thanks, I’m fine.
It’s hard to accept compliments and credit and acknowledgement when they’re being offered.
We’re used to brushing them off.
We don’t want to seem cocky or needy or too pleased with ourselves.
Your hair looks so good. Ugh, I need to get it colored.
I love your sweater. It’s old, I just pulled it from the bottom of the pile.
You taught a great class. It was just the good music today.
Your kids are so polite. You should see them at home.
The unfortunate consequence in all of these cases is that we deprive the giver of the joy of giving.
Accept the damn compliment. Accept the favor. Accept the help.
We practiced ‘accepting’ the other day with some friends.
It felt a little uncomfortable and awkward and weird.
But we did it anyway. It’s a work in progress.
Next day, Angie’s still practicing. Laura forgot about the practicing.
A: hey rebound girl
A: i love your new job
A: so who gets the other ⅓ of the milky way?
L: well, steve has other helpers
L: sometimes we only get ¼ each
L: i sat with him before the last game
L: and learned so much about his life
L: in just 19 minutes
A: how great
A: you’re a good listener
L: not really
A: not really?
A: c’mon, you’re better than that
L: i mean, thank you