Monday, January 29, 2007, Observation:
A week or so ago I finished reading one of the most delightful books I have read in some time. The title is "The Greatest Game Ever Played" written by Mark Frost. Mark Frost produced a movie with the same title, based on his book, which many of you may have seen. The book however, is so much better than the movie, which is often the case with movies based on books. It is the true story of the 1913 US Open golf tournament. Francis Ouimet, a young 19-year-old amateur golfer from Brookline, Massachusetts where the tournament was held, competed against the best amateurs and professionals in the world. Harry Vardon from England, the Tiger Woods of his day, and another Englishman by the name of Ted Ray, were considered the two greatest golfers of the day and one of them was expected to win the tournament. I won't disclose more than that about the story so as not to ruin the experience for those of you who have not seen the movie or read the book. If you decide to buy the book and read it make sure you have plenty of free time on your hands, because once you start reading you will not be able to lay it down.
Francis' father was very opposed to him playing golf and did everything he could to discourage him from what he considered to be an aimless and unproductive use of his son's time. On the other hand, his mother encouraged him, often behind her husband's back, and because of her and the encouragement he received from other important adults in his life he became an accomplished golfer, and more importantly a great human being. Without that encouragement Francis would never have had the influential and wonderful quality of life that became his.
Several Saturdays ago I was reading on the Internet, the Deseret News sports page -- a daily ritual. One of my favorite writers is a fellow by the name of Dick Harmon. Interestingly enough, he said of Tiger Woods the following: January 20, 2007 [Dick Harmon] -- "This summer, Hall of Fame golfer Johnny Miller, speaking of the great Tiger Woods, pointed out there is magic in a parent building up self confidence in a child like Earl Woods did with Tiger. Earl Woods built up his son from the inside out, instilling in him a belief he could do anything and he could dominate the world.
"Giving a child affirmation for the good he does can bring about great results," Miller said. "By the same token, if a father keeps telling his kid he's no good, well ..." No pressure, all you moms and dads. But you guys can make a huge difference with the right kind of cheering for your kid... Corny? I know."
Like many of you, I have been blessed throughout my life with parents, brothers, church leaders, coaches, and teachers who have encouraged me, built up my self-confidence and self-esteem, and helped me to believe I could do anything. I will only mention one person however, who has been so important in my life in encouraging me to believe in myself and in what I could accomplish. That person is my wife, Jo Anne.
I was devastated by my accident, as you might imagine. I was at the top of my game on that fateful day in August of 1989. I was serving as a stake president, I was enjoying my career with CES, none of my children were in jail, and that year my first two grandsons were born. Then in an instant I became paralyzed from the neck down and living on life support. My heart was broken; I didn't know if I wanted to keep living in this condition, and I was extremely depressed. Thankfully I had the good fortune to be married to an incredibly strong woman blessed with "true grit". From the first day of my accident I never felt pity or a "poor Jack" attitude from Jo Anne. She was there constantly encouraging me and giving me frequent psychological kicks in an unmentionable part of my anatomy. There was no way she was going to ever let me languish in self pity. Within nine months after my accident I had been called to serve as a "paralyzed patriarch", which calling I could never have accepted without Jo Anne's encouragement and positive attitude that this was something I could surely do. I was called upon to give my first public talk at seminary graduation in May of 1990 and flatly refused knowing it was something I could not do. Richard Holzapfel, the Irvine stake seminary principal at the time, said that was fine, but that he was going to have my name printed on the program as the keynote speaker and whether I showed up or not was up to me. Jo Anne told me I could do this, and with her help, through two weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, I finally had a little talk prepared and went to the seminary graduation with fear and trembling to deliver it. I was astonished when the kids actually acted like they enjoyed it.
Shortly after that my bishop called me to be the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward which I promptly refused to do. There was just no way that I could prepare a weekly lesson and ever teach again in that way. Jo Anne told the bishop I was out of my mind, I didn't know what I was talking about, and she accepted the assignment for me. I have been the Gospel Doctrine teacher in our ward now for the past 16 years. She then told me I should be speaking on the "Know Your Religion" program. I told her that was absolutely absurd but she wouldn't drop it and I finally submitted a proposal to CES which was miraculously accepted. For several years I spoke on the "Know Your Religion" program in a number of the stakes in Southern California. I was amazed that so many people seemed to enjoy these presentations.
Not content, Jo Anne told me I should be speaking at Education Week. I laughed at her and was incredulous that she would ever mention such a thing. Finally, under her persuasive encouragement, I submitted a proposal to CES and was astonishingly invited to speak at Education Week, delivering two lectures that first year. Jo Anne was not satisfied with this and felt that I could give four lectures the next year. I told her that I thought now she was out of her mind, but with her encouragement I submitted four proposals that were accepted. No one will know how hard I worked to prepare those four lectures on different subjects, but I did so and felt pretty good about it. Driving home from Provo that year Jo Anne announced to me that she thought I could do eight different lectures the next year. I asked her to dump me off at the Zzzzyx offramp near Baker which was preferable to the price I would have to pay to prepare those lectures. She sailed past the Zzzzyx offramp however, the lectures were prepared, and the rest is history as they say.
Not once in 17 1/2 years has Jo Anne ever treated me with pity, or made me feel that I was handicapped in any way. Her encouragement has resulted in achievement, joy, fulfillment, and a continued zest and love for life.
President Hinckley, the essence of optimism and encouragement said on one occasion: "It is a responsibility divinely laid upon each of us to bear one another's burdens, to strengthen one another, to encourage one another, to lift one another, to look for the good in one another, and to emphasize that good. There is not a man or woman... who cannot be depressed on the one hand, or lifted on the other, by the remarks of his or her associates." [Gordon B. Hinckley, CES fireside, March 6, 1994]
Based on my personal experience his words surely are true!