Matt Kemp: giving the shirt off his back . . .
Joshua Jones is going to die soon . . .
The 19-year-old has cancer. The tumors in his spine cannot be removed. He is confined to a wheelchair and, in recent days, has decided to stop receiving chemotherapy. Medical science cannot come to his aid. The last time he consulted a doctor, he discovered he had just 90 days to live.
Joshua loves baseball. He’s a big Dodgers fan and his favorite player is Matt Kemp. The outfielder he idolizes is having a dreadful season, but one fan, at least, still has faith in his abilities.
Last weekend, Joshua’s friends clubbed together to secure front-row seats at AT&T Park, San Francisco. The Giants swept the Dodgers and once again, a disappointing Matt Kemp underperformed.
Heading home, however, not even his fiercest critic could dispute that he had made the day’s most-significant contribution . . .
You see, having been told about Joshua’s plight, Matt sought him out after the game. He signed a ball for the troubled teenager and he shook his hand. Then, as another fan captured the entire episode on film, he did the most unexpected thing . . .
It might seem like a small thing to do, but the effect has been immense. ‘I don’t think words can express how great this was,’ admits Joshua’s brother Ryan. ‘If this is the last memory of his life, it was an incredible one’. Joshua adds, ‘I was in shock. I was sitting there thinking ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this’.’
You might think that this is no big deal. Sports stars sign stuff all the time, right? But think about it on a human level. Matt Kemp has been heckled and harrassed all season. The Dodgers had just lost – again. He must have felt like escaping the spotlight and retreating to the locker room. But something touched him. Something that made him forget his own troubles for a moment.
‘Our third-base coach told me there was a big Dodgers fan at the game who didn’t have long to live,’ he says. ‘No longer than a month-and-a-half, he said. I just decided to go over there to shake his hand and meet him. I didn’t plan on taking my jersey off, it’s just something that I felt would probably cheer him up a little bit. Life is so much bigger than baseball. Yes, we’d just been swept but this is something I felt I had to do and I’m glad I did it. I don’t think some athletes understand what they can do with a simple gesture like shaking a kid’s hand. Sometimes, you forget that you’re a hero to these people but this brings it back. This reminds me that I have to be a role model to these kids and I have to live life right’.
Matt’s thoughts and deeds have struck a chord here at OM®, where we’re feeling rather inspired this morning. You see, in life, not just in baseball, we can all serve as role models and set a good example to others.
The small gestures, these are the things that count. The kind acts. The good deeds. The handshakes. The smiles. Making someone’s day. Cheering someone up. Life is bigger than baseball, but so too does it dwarf all those inconsequential troubles that we’re all carrying around.
Poor performance in the outfield? Bad day at the office? There’s always someone facing greater problems. Seek them out some time. Make a difference. Learn from Matt Kemp . . .