On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Always An Amateur
Life can be so disheartening when you grow up without good looks, athletic ability, high intelligence, or with physical limitations. Poor posture and annoying mannerisms also add to the handicaps that we may have and not even be aware of. Combined, our outward traits may add up to establishing us as personality stereotypes that we find hard to change in the eyes of the world.
Young people below the age of six or seven probably are not aware of their faults to the extent of older children. The teen age years arguably are the most stressful; not only are peer pressures beginning to pull us in one direction after another, but pimples and such begin to rear their ugly heads. Literally and figuratively. Pimples and acne tear at our sense of self-worth, despite being told by adults that beauty is only skin deep.
We can choose to fight acne and pimples with creams and cosmetic lotions, but we also have to fight to establish a sense of self-worth, despite the number of detractors in our midst. But if we won’t stand up for ourselves, then who will? Other than someone directly related to you, why would anybody in your neighborhood or school want to defend or praise you? It is rather astonishing that we humans seldom go beyond family and close friends in protecting and enhancing the dignity of other people. But why should they? Their personal agendas are central to their lives, just as our own personal agendas overshadow those of others. Thus, if we do not become the people we would hope to be, the fault is largely our own. We may not be able to control how tall we become, or to choose the color of our eyes, but we can choose to be happy with who we are. And we can choose to be better than we are now. We can train to run faster, sing better, climb a little higher, and care more about people and about things that matter. Nobody is going to do that for us, so we must do it ourselves. We can choose to try, or we can choose to sit on the sidelines.
Through it all, the self-effacing Footloose Forester was always somewhere well back in the pack. Too short to play basketball; too light to compete in high school football, too dumb to get into college….those are things he told himself when he was growing up. That is, until he had a frank discussion with himself about the alternatives. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do it, then you can.” “And if you think that you can’t do it, then you can’t.” It was a case of deciding what kind of person he wanted to be. He used to joke that when he grew up he wanted to be rich, handsome, talented, famous, and brilliant. But things didn’t quite turn out that way. Then he joked that 4 out of 5 wasn’t too bad. All joking aside, we can choose to be happy about who we are; and we all can choose to try to change things. If we try we may fail, but if we don’t try, then failure is pretty much a guarantee. Being labeled as a rookie, a newby, a duffer, or an amatuer no longer bothers him.
Thus, with those things in mind, the Footloose Forester took his own counsel and participated in basketball, football and softball, golf and other sports, albeit not in any team uniform. He was always mediocre but always ready to participate. For example, when he was 17 years old he was the fastest kid on our pick-up softball team; and by the time he was 56 he was the slowest geezer on our softball team in Kenya. He was the Captain of his previous team in Haiti, not because he was a superior player, but because he personally organized the team, procured some of the equipment, promoted league play, made up the team roster and personally mowed the outfied before the games. He was team captain because nobody else wanted the job; but he got to name the team—the Geritols. During all of those growing up years he was an amateur who looked like and played like a rookie, but there was no happier person on the team. In his later playing years he told people that every time he walked off the baseball diamond or golf course under his own power, he had won, even if his team did not.