Snow in April

When I look out the window and see white on the trees, I smile. After all, there couldn’t be better weather for this time of year.

OK, now that you think I’m nuts, let me explain.

Snow in April is one of those things that can boggle a Front Range newcomer. One minute, the sun is shining and the leaves are budding … and then, just like that, your neighbor gets to explain why you never plant flowers before Memorial Day.

Even when you know it’s inevitable, an April snow shower always has the power to catch you by surprise. And it changes everything when it comes. So for our family, there couldn’t be a better setting for this time of year.

After all, April is also when we became “Missy parents.”

For those who haven’t met her yet, Missy is my wife Heather’s developmentally disabled aunt, a woman who’s my age chronologically but often greets the world from a much younger place. Sometime after her parents passed away, Heather and I moved in to take care of her … 13 years ago in April, as it happens.

Needless to say, all three of us found ourselves with a lot to learn.

We entered a world where the morning must always start with tea, and where the best end to the day is always a bedtime story.

We learned a certain amount of translation (Heather had a massive head start here) to understand Missy’s needs. “Book” could be an actual book or purse, “Up” was usually a request for help and “Mom” could be any parent figure, male or female. But in moments of high excitement, new words or even complete sentences could enter the fray. (The most astonishing remains the “Hallelujah” she picked up one December.)

We discovered just how intense even simple things can become when life is lived without filters. A piece of peanut butter pie. (“Wow!”) The much-awaited climax of a favorite book. (“Yeah!”) The sudden appearance of a much-loved movie character. (“Look-look-look!”)

She demonstrated for us how much a purse can hold, how loudly a stereo can be cranked, and how many different ways the same jigsaw puzzle can be put together if you apply enough force. And that there could never be “enough” when it came to Christmas music, cutting up magazines for artwork, or cute dogs on the street. (“Hi, you!”)

And as we loved and exasperated each other, we re-learned every day that “family” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. And that we had a pretty darned good one.

The world changed – and we couldn’t see how much until we were in the middle of it. Like snow in April. Powder on fresh grass.

I suspect many of us have a moment like that. The ones where you take a step forward and everything changes. Where you thought you knew what was coming, only to realize how different everything looks from the inside.

It can be humbling. Frightening, even. But it’s also those moments where we truly learn. Where we’re forced out of the comfortable and the familiar, and have to see the world with new eyes.

After all, spring is the season of rebirth. And when your perspective gets reborn with it, anything can happen.

It’s something not to be missed.

But it just might be Missy’d.

On the Roll Again

Missy beamed a 500-watt smile as we strolled through a warm Colorado afternoon. Every neighbor got a wave. Every dog earned an eagerly pointing finger. And every block, the rolling of her wheelchair made its soft song against the pavement.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Heather and I don’t break the chair out often. Even with the challenges that our ward Missy has – a developmental disability and cerebral palsy, for the record – she usually gets around pretty well as long as she has someone or something to balance on. But when she’s got a long way to go, then it’s time for us to get rolling. And since Missy just got a brand new chair with great new tires, she’s been more eager than ever to hit the road.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Yes, it doesn’t get better than … what was that?

Rumble, rumble, rumble … plink.

I turned around.

A shiny screw looked back at me from the sidewalk.

Now, friends and family have often accused me of having a screw loose. But it’s usually not this literal.  Which meant … 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

Sure enough. The brand new wheelchair had shed a brand new part, a small fastening in the right wheel. An easy fix, and a quick check found everything else still secure. But as we continued the journey, I mentally kicked myself for half a block. 

You see, I thought I had noticed the slightest wobble in that wheel a day or two before. But the major fastenings had all looked good when I tested them, so it seemed like a worry over nothing.

Instead, it became a reminder of the two-part lesson we all get again and again: 

1) Little things matter, and can easily become bigger things. 

2) Trust your intuition – or at least give it a hearing. 

The first part is something that every homeowner learns sooner or later as the First Law of Maintenance. But the second is a little trickier. After all, we live in a world that shouts for our attention constantly, most of the time adding more anxiety than information. To survive, we have to filter – and we don’t always do a great job of it, often picking the stuff that fits the easy answers we’ve already reached. 

But somewhere in the rush we have to pause. To think. And to listen for the things we may have noticed in the background. After all, that’s what good intuition is – unconsciously putting together facts you didn’t know you had to reach a conscious conclusion. 

Is the gut always right? Of course not. Sometimes a worry is just a worry. But we have to step back to be sure. To trust the “wait a moment,” dial down the pressure and take the time to see things clearly.

It’s not easy. But it’s essential. 

And when you get everything screwed down tight, it’s amazing how easily you can get rolling again. 

Just ask Missy. We should be rumbling by any minute now.

Remember to wave.

Stuck on the Rox

Opening Day has always been a little special to me. A new baseball season. A fresh start. All the possibilities waiting ….

Wait a second.

How many runs?

Oh, dear.

For those of you who missed the disaster Thursday, you have my envy. An unnamed genius scheduled the Arizona Diamondbacks – holders of the National League pennant – to start the season against our Colorado Rockies, holders of national embarrassment after their first-ever 100-loss season. The results should have been predictable.

They weren’t. If only because no one could have predicted the third inning of our first game.

Fourteen runs. Fourteen runs. For the curious, that’s the highest one-inning total that has been recorded in an Opening Day game since 1900. It’s a baseball Titanic … except the Titanic at least had a chance of avoiding the iceberg.

The season has barely started and we’re already a team of legend.

Now, we’re not the first franchise to ever have an extended stay in the baseball doldrums. Back in junior high school days, I can still remember shaking my head in sympathy for a teacher who was a fan of the Chicago Cubs AND the Boston Red Sox at the same time. Both have since returned to respectability and even to glory within recent memory.

I can already hear the sighs of my fellow fans. Yes, our team still has to take step one: actually trying to get out of the basement. And even that’s not a fair statement. Everyone on the team –  as in, the folks in the gloves and ball caps – probably is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The trouble starts higher up and we all know it, with an ownership that says it’s tired of losing but has taken few if any steps to address it.

But as our Rox muddle through their Rocky Mountain Low, we can at least take an example and a lesson. Because a lot of us are in the position of the Men in Purple: having to keep going day after day in a tiring situation that seems to have no end.

We all spend some time there. Some practically have long-term leases. And it’s not always clear how to get out.

Time and again, the same answer floats to the surface: not alone.

I keep a music playlist on hand for harder days. One song that keeps leading the pack is “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers, about a ship sunk by a drunken captain, abandoned by an apathetic owner … and raised by a determined crew. One of the final verses is one that I’ve quoted to myself and others many times:

“And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,

With smiling b******s lying to you everywhere you go,

Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain,

And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

The thing is, the Mary Ellen Carter couldn’t spontaneously rise by itself. It needed the help of the crew who loved it, the ones who had been saved by the ship so many times and who repaid it with their work and dedication.

That’s us.

Asking anyone to haul themselves off the rocks is a cruelty. We need to be there for each other, ready to lift and haul and repair. That’s how we rise again: through community and mutual strength.

None of us are in a position to raise up a baseball team with anything more than cheers (alas). But we can raise up those around us. We can be the love that helps them rise again and accept that love from others.

Set the example. Help it spread. Others will notice.

And if some of those others are in a position to move mountains – or at least Rockies – maybe the next Opening Day will be worth the wait at last.

Hero

Jack Mandelbaum always managed to surprise me.

Every time I told Jack’s story, I would check online to see if we’d lost him. Every time, he’d still be there. Into his 80s, into his 90s, a living memory and a living victory.

Last week, I checked again. Not this time. A few months ago, he had quietly left at the age of 96. An accomplishment for anyone. A statement for him.

You see, Jack was 15 when he went into a Nazi concentration camp.

I met him in 2004 when a book based on his life, “Surviving Hitler,” won the William Allen White Children’s Book Award in Kansas. He appeared in front of the schoolchildren as he’d appeared in front of so many, talking about the “game” he’d played as a teenager – one where the object was to outlast his captors. Each new day claimed another victory.

He won. Again and again. In the camp and beyond it, keeping the memory alive so that the reality would stay dead.

And again and again, the victory cost him.

Every time he spoke, he told me, he would have nightmares afterward. The memories came back to life in his dreams, bringing the horror with them. But he kept on, talking to children, to adults, to anyone who would hear. He had to. Even decades later, he still would not let the evil win.

In short, he was a hero. One with no weapons but the truth, no armor but his own stubbornness. But a hero nonetheless.

Hollywood has given us some pretty wild ideas of what being a hero means – usually punctuated with fiery explosions and a billion-dollar special effects budget – but every so often, a little bit of the truth shines through. Superhero fans like me like to point to a moment in “The Avengers” where the villainous Loki demands that a German crowd kneel to him … and one elderly man refuses.

“No. Not to men like you.”

“There are no men like me,” Loki responds with a smirk.

“There are always men like you.”

No superpowers. No dazzling gadgets. And every Marvel fan will agree that he was the biggest hero in the film.

That’s the kind of hero Jack was.

That’s the kind of hero any of us can be if we’re willing to see evil clearly. Stand firm in the face of it. And keep empowering others to do the same, whatever the cost to ourselves.

No one should have to endure what Jack did. But you don’t have to survive his experience to learn his lessons. That’s why he kept teaching them.

He’s still teaching them now.

And as we in turn teach and heal and strengthen and stand, we help win yet another round of Jack’s game.  

Did I say Jack left? I should know better. The great survivor is still surviving. This time in a way that no camp can touch. The difference he made lives on.

And frankly, that’s not surprising at all.

Rush of Achievement

There’s weird. There’s wonderful. And then there’s David Rush. The man is in a class by himself.

Several classes by himself, actually.

You see, Rush is an Idaho man who’s trying to become the Record Holder of Record Holders – the man who holds more Guinness world records at once than any other person. It’s a quest that has led to some extremely bizarre accomplishments.

Such as being the fastest person to sort M&M’s by color.

Or popping 200 balloons in less than 12 seconds.

Or, just last Thursday, hitting a target with a pump-powered rocket 37 times in a row.

Right now, according to UPI, this gold-level master of strangeness holds 163 simultaneous records, 20 short of his goal. He’s actually achieved 250 different records but – inevitably with a goal this long-term – some of them then got broken by others while he continued his journey. They had to move fast, though: at one point, Rush broke 52 records in 52 weeks.

Why do it? As he’s mentioned to Guinness and many others, he’s a promoter of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) who simply wanted to show what focus on a goal could achieve.

“Too many students try, fail, and give up with a fixed mindset,” he says on his website, where he encourages a “growth mindset” instead – the idea that abilities aren’t simply innate, but can be developed through time, effort and help from others. “I can only do a very small part, but I’d like to do that part as well as I can.”

I suspect that hits home for a lot of us. It’s a message of hope, which I’ve described here before as “optimism plus sweat”: the willingness to commit to something better and then see it through.

And it remains powerful even when we’re aware that it’s not always that simple.

We’re all aware of boundaries in our lives. Some are more pliable than others. Some may be physical limitations, whether they’re as everyday as nearsightedness or as profound as severe childhood brain damage. Some have been set by society – we’ve all seen (or even experienced) stories of the additional challenges and barriers set due to poverty, race, gender, or an array of other qualities that can become a dividing line.

Can sufficient work, time and help overcome those? In many cases, sure – but the definition of “sufficient” is going to vary widely between individuals. For one person, a particular achievement may be as easy as a walk in the park. For another, it may be the equivalent of designing an entire space program from scratch.

Does that mean we should all give up? Heck, no. But it does mean  we all have a few additional lessons to remember.

First, be kind. Don’t assume that someone else is lazy just because they haven’t achieved what you think they should. You don’t know their burdens, their battles, or what they may have going on where no one else can see.

Second, try to see. Be aware of those around you. Understand as you would like to be understood, care about them as you would about yourself.

Finally, be the “help from others.” Encourage, teach, stand alongside. Find the boundaries that shouldn’t be there and help bring them down. Even when the limits are severe, work to grow what you can, like a garden behind a stone wall. Create opportunities – not all of them will be fulfilled, but you may be surprised at the ones that flourish.

Together, we can help each other grow. And help ourselves in the process. That’s an exciting feeling.

You might even say it’s quite a Rush.

Clocking In

Twice in a year.

Once with winter staring us in the face and once on the edge of spring.

An event that shakes things up and marks a changing time.

Yes, of course I’m talking about the Denver Nuggets going 2-0 against the league-leading Boston Celtics. What did you think I meant?

OK, to be fair, I have written about the clock changes associated with going to and from Daylight Saving Time until I’m blue in the fingertips. I’ve argued for “locking the clock” on health grounds, safety grounds, common sense grounds, and probably even the number of coffee grounds that could be saved each year by just letting people keep their sleep patterns intact. We’ve seen the movement have its moment … and then come and go with our bi-annual temporal insanity left intact.

At this point, I’m throwing up my hands. Basketball makes more sense than the twice-a-year time change ever will.

Even when it’s something as wild and wacky as this.

We used to be pretty sure what would happen when the Nuggets and Celtics shared a court. Sure enough to bet money, anyway. Go back through the previous 10 years and Boston has a 14-8 record. And three of those Denver wins were grabbed in a row about five years ago, so there’s been a lot of barren country before and after that.

Until now.

Two and oh.

Not without effort. Not without a bit of luck here and there. (Is any win in sports ever claimed without at least a little luck?) But enough to create a consistent Wearin’ Out O’ The Green … and maybe some much-needed reassurance as the playoffs loom ever closer.

Last season, in retrospect, was practically a coronation. We dominated the West from December on and still managed to surprise everyone in the playoffs, especially the army of sportscasters who were convinced that any brilliance from the Rocky Mountain way had to be a fluke. The only moment we didn’t get was a championship series against Boston when the Miami Heat – who really did pull off something of a fluke – snuck into the Eastern Conference championship instead.

This year has been harder. We know it. The West has been a tussle with the Timberwolves and the Thunder for the top seed with a bevy of others close at our heels waiting for the first mistake. There have been injuries and should-haves and moments of doubt.

But the same tools that took us to the title are still there. Tight teamwork. A strong bench. A jaw-dropping star in the Joker, whose many talents include making everyone around him better, and a teammate in Jamal Murray whose rapport with him is darned-near telepathic.

And just like last year, they’re a heck of an example for those of us in the larger world. The one where we don’t get millions for our aim with a basketball.

We succeed when *we* succeed – working together, interlocking our strengths, compensating for our weaknesses. That’s true whether we’re talking about a team … or a company … or a community … or a nation.

It’s never all about the leader. It can’t be. Sure, having a Jokić  or a Jordan on the team makes a huge difference – but if the rest of the team isn’t there, it’s just a lost opportunity.

Hard work. A common aim. Being ready to take advantage of the breaks that come your way. And most of all, a mutual earned trust.

It’s not easy. But it’s how you build something that lasts.

Best wishes to the Nuggets. And to all of us.

May we all do the most with our moment in time – wherever we finally set it.

Picture the Time

Heather returned from the yard, her phone held in triumph.

“I did it!” she proclaimed. “Fifty-two weeks!”

“Oh? … OH!”

A smile spread across my face to match my wife’s. At long last, the photo forest was complete.

Perhaps I should explain. My wife Heather enjoys photography, especially shots that involve patterns and repetition. She’s also felt a little disconnected from the world since COVID arrived in 2020. With her various autoimmune conditions, she has to be careful about how and where she goes out, even in virus conditions that others might shrug at.

So to grab a sense of time, she started visiting the apple tree in the back yard for a brief photo session. One shot per week, always at the same time of day, always from the same angle and range. The goal: one year’s worth of pictures.

It started slow. After all, there’s not much difference between a barren tree branch in late February and a barren tree branch in mid-March. (Especially with the “second winter” that the Front Range can often get.) But over time, across 52 weeks, the changes became subtle and then profound: first budding, then flourishing, then thinning once more.

At times, it became a panic task. (“Scott! I almost forgot! I’ve got to do the tree!”) Time had started to mean something again among the sameness of home life, even if it mostly meant a date with a silent, leafy companion.

And as the leaves grew, so did her confidence.

She had set a goal. A long-term one. And she was following through.

When you spend a lot of time with chronic illness, that’s not a small thing. Plans often have to change on a dime; schedules and expectations become necessarily fluid. Friends, family, even doctors all become familiar with the phone call that starts “I’m sorry but I can’t today …”

A lot of things get torn away. And any time you can grab something back, it’s a triumph. A moment to plant your feet and say “No. I get to do this and you can’t stop me.”

And so, over time, the photos became a battle record. A simple spectrum of determination.

Fifty-two weeks. Fifty-two moments that added up to so much more.

Everything starts with a moment. It’s easy to forget that, easier still to get overwhelmed by what life asks of us. It all seems so big and our abilities so small, like sculpting with a toothpick.

But taking just a moment, claiming it, repeating it- that’s powerful. Even scattered moments built from brief flashes of opportunity add up. Georges Seurat spent two years painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”  J.R.R. Tolkien spent 17 years on “The Lord of the Rings.” Both created masterworks – but in a way, that’s beside the point.

It’s not about whether the goal resounds through the ages. It’s about what it means to you. And even what you build in yourself as you achieve it.

Heather built something lasting. She reclaimed a piece of her life. And regardless of the pictures themselves, that’s something no one can take away.

It’s amazing what can happen when you just take a shot.

Or even 52 of them.

Small Step

The moon has never felt so close.

Irrational? Maybe. After all, this summer will be 55 years since Neil Armstrong took his first steps on our nearest neighbor. We’ve walked, driven, even played golf on the moon. And since then, we’ve remotely flown helicopters on Mars, peered into distant stars and black holes, and been serenaded by music played aboard a space station. After all that, shouldn’t returning to a bunch of rocks and craters feel old hat?

And yet, something about Thursday seemed special. No … WAS special.

For the first time since the ‘70s, an American spacecraft returned to the moon. No astronauts, not yet. Just a robot craft with a challenging landing, an uncertain signal and a few science instruments. Just that. And with it came the promise of a new start.

So much has changed, of course. New technology, new players. We’re not the only ones bringing spacecraft to the lunar surface anymore and everyone has had a lot of learning and re-learning to do. Especially since the folks who did it the first time are long since gone from the field (or from life) and their experience with it.

But we are learning. The drive is there again. And this time, instead of just a monument, it may become a stepping stone.

Oh, you could argue that Thursday remained an ordinary day for the overwhelming majority of us. We still had the same needs to fulfill and jobs to do, the same joys and stresses and looming headlines. My own attention to the Odysseus landing came as I was helping a family member recover from a stomach bug, about as un-science-fiction a task as you can imagine.

But in a real way, it put another crack in a wall that we build far too easily.

We tend to make our universe a very small place. I don’t mean the stars and planets, but the mental worlds we build around ourselves. It’s easy to tightly focus on our own routines and concerns, partly in self-defense against a media landscape that keeps threatening to overwhelm us with the troubles of 8 billion people.

But while some distance may be necessary for survival, it also becomes isolating. Over time, it can become a tunnel vision that limits horizons, diminishes joy and turns all but a select few into strangers. In tending our own garden, we look less and less over the garden wall.

No judgment. I do it, too. And that’s why I value the moments of wonder that turn my eyes upward again.

Suddenly, the universe is both big and close. Space suddenly isn’t something way out there, but close at hand, not apart from us but a part of us.

And once we lower our barriers, there’s a lot we can bring inside.

No one reaches space on their own. It requires a lot of teamwork and connection. That same sort of connection can strengthen us here on Earth, reaching to neighbors near and far, being and doing so much more than we could ever manage alone.

Sure, there are practical benefits from space exploration and plenty of people will write about them. But for me, at its heart, it goes back to those first words of Neil. When any of us makes just one small step outwards, it can become a giant leap for all of us.

May that hope always shine as brightly as our old friend does right now. May it always inspire us to look upward and outward and inward to find a larger world … and a closer one as well.

In a world where so much can weigh so heavily, it’s not a bad thing to let ourselves be moonstruck.

Weekend Winter

Colorado has many things that define “consistent.” Like the presence of the Rocky Mountains. Or the awfulness of Rockies relief pitchers. Things that stay the same week after week, year after year.

But weather?

If you’ve hung around this corner of the Front Range for the past three weeks, you know what I’m talking about. Mild throughout the work week … maybe cold, maybe warmer, but definitely dry. And then once the weekend arrives: BAM! Snow and ice time.

It’s been regular as a clock. Steady as a metronome. And probably a little frustrating to 1) students hoping for a snow day or 2) anyone hoping for a Saturday that doesn’t involve slip-sliding away.

I know, I know, it’s winter. (My favorite time of year, as it happens.) Snow comes with the territory. But it usually doesn’t come with a punch clock.

Again, if you live here, you get it.

Everyone talks about how their state’s weather is wild. Colorado is the one where you can get all four seasons before lunch. It’s where a meteorologist’s kit includes a dartboard, dice and a voodoo doll of Mother Nature. (Am I right, Mike Nelson?) As the story goes, if your outfit for the day includes a parka AND Birkenstocks, you might just be a Coloradan.

Steady, scheduled weather just doesn’t fit the profile.

It’s not the story we’re used to telling. And that’s always a little unsettling.

We like stories. We’re storytellers by nature, either trying to explain the world we’ve got, remember the world we had or describe the world that could be. Depending on the tools we use, the result may be epic myth, rigorous science, conspiracy theory or the next hit series of blockbuster films. But at some level, it helps us define patterns and discern reasons …or at least, feel like we are.

The trick comes, of course, when we’re trying to impose a pattern rather than discover one. That’s relatively harmless when we’re seeing shapes in clouds. It can be downright marvelous when it leads someone to write an engrossing novel or the next hit song. But it gets more treacherous when a deeply-held story collides with reality and the story wins.

We get comfortable in how we see the world. And when the world argues with us, a lot of us tend to argue back. Better to hold your ground, be consistent, prove you’re right – or is it?

“When events change, I change my mind,” the economist Paul Samuelson once said (later crediting a similar thought to John Maynard Keynes). “What do you do?”

Easy to say, especially from the outside. But it’s harder to do. It requires humility to change your mind in the face of evidence. It requires awareness rather than acceptance, constant questioning rather than confident certainty.

In other words, it takes work. And a willingness to change.

When we can do it, the result is a better story for all of us.

The weekend winters will shift eventually. (Right?) The memory will become another story. As we write our next one, look around with clear eyes and a thoughtful mind. You might find more than you think.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to find a shovel and some ice melt. After all, Saturday will be here before we know it.

Leaving a Mark

In a Northridge Elementary School resource room, Mark Jefka looked at the final position of the plastic chess pieces. Smiled. And offered our usual closing invocation.

“Well,” he said to me, “you win some, you lose some and some you get rained out of. But you gotta dress for every game.”

You do lose some. And now we’ve lost one of the best.

When I learned that Mr. Jefka died on Jan. 30, it hit like a shot to the childhood. So much of my mind bears his touch on it, the fingerprints of a caring, patient man.

Patient men don’t often leave glamorous obituaries behind. No matter. The love they leave behind surpasses any marquee, planting the seeds of changed lives and a better world.

Especially when they meet those lives young.

My classmates at Northridge sometimes asked what I did when I left class to spend time with Mr. Jefka. “Play games,” I told them and indeed we did. But it went deeper than that.

You see, Mr. Jefka was trained in special ed, working with students who needed some extra attention. And in grade school, that definitely included me. My childhood epilepsy had come with some other neurological issues that required me to work on very basic skills, such as spatial awareness, balance and coordination.

I received help with this outside of school, of course (and one helper who did so much remains a very dear friend today). But inside the Northridge resource room, it was me and Mr. Jefka. And often a game as well. Each one with a different lesson hidden inside it.

When we dealt the cards for Concentration, the prize was greater memory and attention.

When we set up the board for chess or checkers, we were building an ability to focus, study a situation and anticipate consequences.

A slightly noisier game called Bombs Away – one that involved looking through a sight to try to drop plastic skydivers into targets on a moving board – sharpened reflexes and worked on my sense of timing.

Yes, there were tests and other standard measures to see what kind of progress I was making. There always are. But it’s the games I remember best.

No, that’s not quite right. It’s the man behind the games I remember. Always calm. Always pleased with me, win or lose. And ever ready to show me how to take either result with a smile. (And sometimes a gentle chorus of “The party’s over …”)

If I’m ever half as patient with others as Mark Jefka was with me, then I’ll know I’ve done well. Even now, I wonder who I may have touched in return and how Mr. Jefka’s gift is being carried on.

We don’t often get to know. We’re shaped by so many people and we shape so many, but we don’t always get to see the later chapters of the story. We just have to keep reaching out in love and kindness, trusting that something we’ve planted is flowering somewhere, that the light from our candle may be kindling others.

Sometimes we learn, if we’re lucky. But whether we hear the stories or not, we have to keep writing them.

Because it’s not about fame or renown. It’s about that moment when a life is touched for the better. So many lives, so many places.

Thank you, Mr. Jefka. Thank you more than I can say.

You may have left these games behind. But I’ll always be grateful to carry your Mark.