Building Great Men

What does it take to build a great man?

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My family loves baseball and this picture of the baseball buddies from the 1993 movie “The Sandlot” represents in my mind a major component to making great men.  This story of a group of adolescent boys during the summer of 1962 takes place in Glendale, Salt Lake City, Utah where they spend hours together in a vacant, dusty lot playing baseball.  Friendships, fights, and laughter marked their shared experience one hot summer in small town America.  Their story depicts the slow, steady process of making a man.  The boys learn friendship firsthand and how to work out differences, how to accept and make new friends, and how to deal with change and adversity. This is a sandlot filled with lessons packed in this funny and inspiring movie.

Many years ago, I gave up on my perfect yard.  Instead, I let it become a place for my boys to be themselves.  At first it was easy to let the yard go.  The degradation was gradual since the lawn was in very good condition.  But after a year or two with no weed killer, no reseeding, and no watering, my strategy was apparent to everyone. We had dirt, dust, and sometimes mud in all the wear spots you would image.  I could almost laugh about how bad the yard got, except that my wife and I knew our goal was not to grow grass as much as it was to grow men.  In addition to the backyard grass, I had 2 fence sections that were progressively being damaged.   So my neighbors and I erected  a few large sheets of plywood to serve as backstops for the baseballs.  They weren’t pretty but they did help keep the balls from going into the neighbor’s yard, as well as slowing the damage to the fence.  Yet, after years of climbing over the fence and all the strikes with baseballs and scored soccer goals, you can image what the fence looked like. 

I am thankful for the privilege of being in a position of helping to build men.  I am also thankful for good neighbors who had a good perspective on life and shared a similar view on raising boys.  Just this past weekend, my neighbor and I, with the help of our 2 teenage men, began the process of repairing one of the fence sections.  Through the process we had a few good laughs and got to share another common experience we all will hopefully remember.  Later that same night, I said to my oldest son, I want you to remember the joy you had in our backyard when you are my age and have a family of your own.  Then, when your kids are grown, I want you to reflect on what it means to be a good neighbor to a young family that moves in next door to your house; both of these reflections will serve you well.