Found in Space

You could call it the ultimate tech-support ticket.

For those of you who don’t keep up on space news – I get it, the NBA playoffs are on – NASA just came to the rescue of Voyager. No, not the old Star Trek sci-fi series, the even older space probe that was launched in the 1970s, left the solar system entirely in the 2010s and is still sending back information today.

Well … at least it was until November, when the most distant man-made object ever stopped sending signals.

Mind you, Voyager was still functional. But it couldn’t “speak” clearly – its signals were garbage. And so, armed with paper documentation and a two-day time lag in sending or receiving information, NASA went to work.

Five months of troubleshooting ultimately found that one chip had gone bad, corrupting a tiny piece of Voyager’s code. Uploading a fix meant working with a 47-year-old computer from 15 billion miles away. (Now THAT’S an overseas call center.)

And finally, on April 23, the news came out: Voyager was back on the line.

That lifts me up in so many ways. And not just because I’m a serious space geek. That’s part of it, mind you, but not all.

It also shows how much we can value what’s gone before. And how much we’ll do to save it.

That might sound a little strange. After all, nostalgia has deep roots in us and they get deeper every day. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were looking back with rose-colored glasses on the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today, it’s the ‘80s and so much more. In fact, thanks to the internet, we now get to sample and romanticize almost any era – or a mixture of them – as the “good old days.”

But that’s a surface appreciation and often a nearsighted one, choosing to ignore the worst of an earlier time or the best of today. “Back to the past” movements can even do tremendous damage, bulldozing today’s people and needs in the name of restoring a half-imagined golden age. Ultimately, we can’t live in a memory.

That said, we also tend to swing too hard the other way. Nostalgia trivializes, and if something isn’t lit by the current “Ooh, that’s cool and weird” spotlight, it tends to be rejected as old junk that’s no longer relevant. Tools, ideas, even people get set aside and forgotten in favor of newer and better.

But once in a while, we get a reminder that nothing is totally forgotten, or that the lessons of the past still have value now. And whether it’s programmers blowing the dust off of forgotten code to make a repair or long-ago veterans and refugees sharing their experience with a classroom, we stop for a moment, remember and learn.

Forgotten things can still have value. Forgotten people can still have value.

And when we pull off the impossible to help the forgotten, we remind ourselves what we’re capable of. After all, if we can spend five months to help one scientific instrument 15 billion miles away, how much more can we do to acknowledge and help the person next door?

So I’m happy for Voyager. And I’m even happier for us.

That’s the kind of support and determination that can make space for us all.

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.

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.

When Christmas Got Purse-onal

We still remember it as the Great Purse Christmas. 

The story starts with Missy, as so many do. Missy has a love for the season that is both passionate and unfeigned, and my wife Heather and I have learned her enthusiasms well over the years that we’ve cared for her. 

Carols? Play them anytime! 

Lights? Let’s go see them every night! 

The Grinch? Yes, please! 

It makes Christmas Day really fun to watch, especially since Missy’s tastes are pretty simple. New puzzles. Coloring books. Exciting stories for bedtime. Music by the score. 

And, of course, purses. 

It’s less pronounced now, but for many years, Missy’s constant companion was a big red purse, packed with half the universe inside it. Anyone venturing into its depths would unearth flash cards, stuffed animals, crumpled-up comics, a partridge in a pear tree …. as well as a ripped lining and bursting seams from holding so much for so long. 

So one Christmas, Heather and I saw the state of her current handbag and decided that a new red purse would be just the thing for Missy to find under the tree. 

As it happens, we had some company. 

Come the day, Missy got not one … not two … but FOUR red purses under the tree. Each one a different size, style and shade. The hilarity grew as the bags multiplied. 

“You mean you …?” 

“Oh, no!” 

“Wow, Missy ….” 

As communicators, we had failed pretty miserably. But as gift-givers, we had succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. 

Missy was over the moon with joy, wealthy beyond words. And all of us had unwrapped a new story to share and re-share. 

You can’t ask for a better Christmas than that. 

It’s easy to get hyper-focused on the stuff, tempting to see Christmas Day as the here-at-last finish line of a long December march. But the day was always meant to be a beginning, not an end. And the best present has always been the gift of each other, wrapped in stories and memories and love. 

Here at Chez Rochat, it’s rare for a present to be opened without a tale or an explanation from the giver. It might be as simple as “I never thought this would get here in time” or a mighty seasonal epic of desperate searches and sudden discoveries. But with each telling, we strengthen a bond and reinforce a message: “I thought of you. I care. And I want you to know how much you mean to me.”

After all, we’re storytelling creatures. It’s how we make sense of the world, sometimes even how we transform it. Most of all, it’s how we become an “us,” tied together for the moment – or maybe longer – by a common understanding and shared vision.

The story now begins anew, today and every day. Write it well. Share it often. Celebrate it with others and watch it grow as your story joins theirs, making both richer.

Together, we can write a new year worth remembering. One where the real gifts aren’t just tucked away in a dark corner of December, but shared throughout. I’m confident we can do it.

In fact, I think it’s in the bag.

Peace and a Hula Hoop

“The Chipmunk Song” is a tool of peace. Really.

No, I haven’t had too much eggnog. Perhaps I should explain.

For my wife Heather, the Christmas season doesn’t really start until she hears the Chipmunks Christmas album, including the squeaky-voiced perennial about how much Alvin wants a hula hoop. (Are you hearing it in your head now? I’m sorry.) It’s one of two albums that gets played when we decorate our tree each year, along with my own family’s tradition of “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.”

But never mind our tree right now. The really important one in the story is G-ma’s.

“G-ma” was Heather’s Grandma Marilyn. Every year, Heather and her siblings and her mom (and often the rest of us spousal hangers-on) would make the short trek to help put up her tree. There’d be stories and ornaments and minor chaos and everything else you’d expect at such an occasion.

And, at Heather’s insistence, there would also be “The Chipmunk Song.” Because one does. And because G-ma’s laughter and smile at it never changed.

Time passed. And so did G-ma.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, we lost Marilyn in July. It left a hole. It always does when love and memories have grown strong. When the memories belong to a loving, strong-willed and lively soul, that hole gets even bigger.

Especially at the holidays.

There’s something about the season of togetherness that makes the empty chair stand out even more. And when December arrived, it felt off-balance without G-ma’s tree.

So Heather’s family put one up anyway.

A small tree. By the graveside. Decorated, of course. And there in the cold, Heather’s sister decided there was still just one thing missing.

At her suggestion, Heather pulled out her phone. And soon, the tinny strains of “The Chipmunk Song” were pealing out once more.  

All was right.

And that, at its heart, is the picture of peace.

We often misuse the word, shouting “give me some peace!” when a situation gets too loud or contentious. Peace becomes a simple end to conflict, by whatever means, a way of restoring quiet and keeping order.

But there’s an older meaning. One that’s still in the backdrop of a hundred Christmas carols. As a friend of mine likes to note, in old Greek the word means an interweaving, the connections between others that create harmony. When those connections are strong, when all is as it should be, peace reigns.

That’s a powerful gift. One we need badly.

We’re good at dividing, great at shouting, not always so good at listening. Peace demands that we listen, learn and try to understand. That we see those around us as our strength, not our burden. It calls on us to reach out, lift up, and make each other whole.

It’s not always a quiet process and rarely a simple one. But when we honor those connections, we make something beautiful. A beginning. A space. Something that binds us all, even if it’s in the tones of a novelty Christmas song.

The hula hoop is just a bonus.

May peace find you all. In all its meanings. Together, we just may be able to evoke, with a slight alteration, another, older song.

All is calm.

All is right.

Rock Doubt

Well, at least we’re not Oakland. 

Small consolation at the best of times, I know. But it’s all I’ve got left to offer. 

If you’re a fellow Colorado Rockies fan, you get it. And if you’re a fellow Colorado Rockies fan, I am so, so sorry. 

One. Hundred. Losses. 

And beyond, naturally. The count stood at 102 when I wrote this and may have added one or two more by the time our final out of the year was recorded on Sunday. But as usual, it’s the big round number that stands out, the mark of infamy that no Rockies team had ever before reached. 

One hundred losses.

We’re not the first team to ever get here, of course. We’re not even the first one this season. The aforementioned Oakland A’s (111 losses at this writing) had a year that almost gave the tragic 1962 Mets a run for their money. Lest anyone forget, that was the year manager Casey Stengel uttered the immortal words “Can’t anybody here play this game?” 

So yeah. We’re not the worst of the worst of the worst.  

Um … yay?

It’s not just the bad season, of course. Everyone gets them eventually. It’s that there have been so many for so long, years where even “mediocre” has seemed like an aspirational goal.  It’s been 16 years since “Rocktober” now. Only four of those have seen winning seasons. The last one – admittedly, one of our best teams since those brief World Series days – was five years ago. 

But even there, it’s not just that it’s happened. It’s how. Get any group of Rockies fans together for longer than ten minutes and you’ll hear the same grumbles. “The owners don’t care. They don’t have to. People keep coming … they could lose every game and still make money.” 

I don’t live in the Monforts’ heads, so I can’t swear to whether that’s true, though I have my theories. (That’s half the fun of being a fan, after all.) But the fact that it’s even credible is toxic. 

After all, it’s a problem that goes beyond baseball. A problem that can be summed up in four words. 

“It’s all about me.” 

It fills the headlines every day. We see it in political showdowns that play poker with people’s lives and well-being. We see it in collisions at every level, where the fears or ambitions of a few can run roughshod over everyone else. During the height of the pandemic, it was an opponent almost as dangerous as the virus itself, when all of us had to remember that our actions affected more than just ourselves.

To be honest, we’re better at that than we give ourselves credit for. Most of us know that we should be looking beyond our own skin, that our neighbors matter. But like a person standing in a doorway, it only takes a few to get in the way of everyone else – not just by what they do or prevent, but by building a feeling of despair that accelerates the cycle. When you start to feel like nothing can be done, you’re less likely to do anything.

Heavy thoughts for something as light as a bad baseball season, I know. But the answer’s the same. Awareness. Hope. Determination. Not to give up, not to wait for things to magically get better, but to act. To remind the self-focused – in the owner’s box or in the nation – that we’re here and we won’t be taken for granted.

Interesting stat – out of all the baseball teams that have lost 100 games, about one in eight had a winning season the next year. Even the “average” mega-loser made their way back to the playoffs in about seven years. Change can happen … once there’s the willingness to do it.

It’s time to play ball. Push hard. And remember, we’re not Oakland.

It’s not much of a battle cry, but it’s a start.   

Pouring Down, Rising Above

The rain just wouldn’t stop. 

When I lived in Kansas, I learned what that meant. Hard thunderstorms could make a mess. But steady, unceasing rain could be worse. When water has time to gather its strength, it transforms everything around it. Roads become rivers, concrete dividers become popcorn, lives become changed. 

I thought I knew that lesson. 

Ten years ago, I learned how little I knew. 

If you were here in September 2013, you know what I mean. If you weren’t, I’m not sure I can ever explain it properly. That handful of days belongs to another world, one where events flowed as ceaselessly as the St. Vrain and sleep was a rare and precious commodity. A world transformed. 

Longmont became a city divided. Lyons became an island chain. Missouri Avenue turned into the “Missouri river” as the water rose. Hover Street became impassible, though that didn’t stop some from sloshing their way across on foot anyway, struggling from south to north as emergency workers yelled at them to turn back. 

We held on as the water did its work. 

And even after the waters fell, we weren’t quite the same.

I don’t just mean the physical damage, though rebuilding from that became a years-long effort. Passing through the flood changes people. You don’t just let go of what happened, even if your home and family were well out of the floodway.

A few months later, when the spring rains began, I think most of us paused for just a moment. I remember watching the runoff pool and flow in a gutter near Longmont High School, unable to look away as my mind went back to higher waters and faster flows. 

Call it a reflex. A readiness. A ghost.

But we also carried away something else. We learned that we truly had neighbors. 

It’s easy to forget sometimes. Easy to ignore the lives that pass so near our own or even to clash with them. We divide, separate, watch the world with wary eyes.

But the good stuff never went away. Neighbors still exist. And when the waters rose, we found each other, reached out and helped. 

Even the St. Vrain couldn’t separate that.

It shouldn’t take a flood. Or a blizzard, or a wildfire, or any of the other traumatic moments that throw us into each other’s lives. But then, those are the moments that boil down all the choices and throw everything into stark relief. Where it’s clear that we either stand together or else we might not stand at all.

And so we reach for snow shovels. Or sandbags. Or masks.  One way or another, we reach for a neighbor’s hand and make each other stronger.

The world does its worst. And we rediscover our best.

And each time, I hope the discovery will last a little longer. It’s too important to rise and fall like a passing creek, full past bursting in a crisis and parched to the point of drought otherwise.

I said it at the beginning: sudden storms come and go, but steady effort transforms. That’s true of more than just rain. If we keep that sort of steady focus on each other, that daily commitment to our neighbors, we can reshape our world.

We just need to gather our strength. And not let up.

Long may we rain.

Fire-Forged

It’s amazing how perspective can shift in a week.

Just a few days ago, the hot news in the headlines was the defeat of a soccer powerhouse. The U.S. Women’s World Cup team – two-time defending champions! –  made their earliest ever departure from the tournament, knocked out by Sweden in a game that came down to a fraction of an inch. For a team that had never finished lower than third, this was a Moment, one that could not be looked away from.

I’d planned to write about that moment. And then came the unthinkable words.

“Maui’s on fire.”

By now, we’ve all seen the photos, read the headlines. Lahaina burned to the ground. At least 80 dead as I write this, surely more now. Stark scenes from a place of beauty, transformed into devastation.

In a weird way, the news was all too familiar. Every Coloradan knows much too much about wildfires and the destruction they can bring. With just a spark in the wrong place, the whole grim parade of events can start anew: evacuations, containment efforts, choking air, the memories of a lifetime reduced to ash.  

It’s lit the Mountain West over and over, seared itself into our brains and our reflexes. The smell of smoke, imprinted on a state’s DNA.

This summer, we’d actually allowed ourselves to breathe a bit. After all, this year we had rain. And rain. And rain again. High rivers and flooding produce their own dangers, of course (don’t we know THAT well?) but at least one old enemy could be kept at bay for a while.

So when those old painful images reappeared, this time in the heart of an island paradise, it seemed surreal. Even that word doesn’t go far enough, I know, for those who have ties to Hawaii … an out-of-place nightmare made far too real.

There’s a lot that’s still ahead. There always is. Disaster only seems to know two speeds: heartbreakingly fast when it’s in the moment and painstakingly slow in the days and weeks and months after, as people try to recover, rebuild and learn just what the heck happened.

But as Maui’s story continues, there’s one other shadow of the past that’s been revived. A welcome one.

In every disaster, we re-learn the meaning of the word “neighbor.” Not just the person whose property happens to bump against yours, but the person who needs help that you can give. Time and again, we rise up to help someone else rise.

Some have given money. Some have given sweat. People have reached out to schools, to families, to animal shelters. And in every act, large and small, we do more than rebuild an area. We rebuild ourselves as well – the idea that wherever we are, whoever we may be, we share a tie that makes us one.

We recognize a common pain. And in meeting it together, we make all of us stronger.

It’s a Moment. One worth more than any championship.

The cameras will eventually move on. That’s the nature of news and of human attention. But it’s not the end of the story. And it should never be the end of that spirit.

We’re a community. A family. A team.

And whatever lies ahead, we’ll pass through the fire together.   

Binding Chords

When it came time for the nation’s obituaries and tributes to sing out with David Crosby’s story, one note kept getting played again and again.

I don’t mean his role in co-founding two legendary bands. I’m not referring to his often stormy personal life and recovery, his engaging presence on social media, or even his Yosemite Sam mustache. All those got talked about, to be sure, and more besides … but one element kept rising to the top in story after story and quote after quote.  

 “Master of Harmony.”   

“… a harmony singer virtually without equal …”

“… his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius.”

That’s a legacy I can appreciate.

If you’ve checked into this column before, you may have noticed that I tend to carry a torch for life’s supporting players. Like the stage manager who keeps a play moving behind the scenes. Or movie characters like Chewbacca who have to play their intentions with zero dialogue. Or the helpful neighbors who quietly make an entire community work without fanfare.

In each case, they’ve mastered the art of harmony. And these days, it can be a rare gift indeed.

In music, harmony’s a balancing act. You need to support the melody without overwhelming it, to hear and provide the notes that will lift someone else up … or, in some groups, that will lift everyone up together. That’s an art.

Now I don’t want to portray Crosby as some sort of selfless monk. That he decidedly was not. But he had the ability to hear how one plus one could equal so much more than two. And coming from his often chaotic life, that harmony may have been all the more remarkable.

But as I hinted above, the art of harmony doesn’t have to stop with music. You don’t need to be a rock star – or even a folk rock star – to make it work. Just someone who can listen for a need and fill it, without needing to seize the spotlight.

Yeah, “just” that.

The challenge is that we live in a world where everyone’s a lead, or wants to be. Step online and every breath of social media is about promoting your own wants and beliefs. Hit the highway, and you’ll find a dozen cars who need your piece of the lane right NOW. And while it’s certainly important to take care of yourself, it’s easy to get sucked into looking no farther than your own skin. If my life is OK and normal, then that’s what matters, right?

But taking that step back can make all the difference.  Three melodies all going their own way without heed for anyone else is a recipe for discord. But when the same three musicians tune to each other and listen, the results can be more powerful than any one of them could have been alone.

In life or music, harmony doesn’t just help the lead. It helps the entire group.

I hope we all get the opportunity to learn that. After all, if rock-star egos can manage it for however brief a period, surely the rest of us have got a chance at getting it right.

It’s worth trying.

I just hope the mustache is optional.

Blitzed

Only a game.

We invoke the words easily. In resignation after a hard loss. In disbelief when a player signs for millions. Even in frustration when uprooting a partner from the couch, AKA Fantasy Football Central. “Good grief, it’s only a game!”

But we’re not used to whispering them in shock. Not until last Monday, anyway, when reality hit harder than any linebacker. A player fell. A nation watched. And the bright lights of the NFL faded into the background. When the league said the game would stay canceled, no one was really surprised.

After all, it’s only a game.

And at a moment like that, so many things loom larger than the score.

**

You didn’t have to be a Buffalo Bills fan to feel it. I’ve never been within 100 miles of Buffalo. My wife barely follows football at all. Both of us were stunned when Damar Hamlin collapsed from an on-field cardiac arrest. We had a lot of company.

After all, sports has a way of insulating us from reality. It’s entertainment, and like any good movie, play or TV show, it plunges us into another world for a couple of hours. Life’s frustrations fall away for a little while, subsumed in the action.

But once in a while, the walls don’t hold.

Maybe it’s an earthquake. Or an attack. Or a young man abruptly going down like his strings were cut. Whatever the cause, reality breaks the film, stops the play, shakes us out of the dream. We get reminded that we’re not watching a video game. That the helmets and numbers are people, as vulnerable in some ways as any of us.

We’ve spent hours, months, years watching these people. But sometimes it’s only in these shattering moments that we really see them.

And that’s in a world of cameras and spotlights. When we walk back into our world, surrounded with everyday people instead of superstars … how much more do we still not see?

**

We all do it. Not maliciously, but we do. Faces in our life become like cars on the highway, a blur only noticed when one of them veers near our lane. We go through the routine, used to everyone playing their part, not really looking closely.

And then something happens to make us pay attention and … we look. We see the struggles below the surface, maybe for the first time. And we wonder how we could miss it for so long.

It shouldn’t take a crisis. But attention takes work. And it’s a work we often put off until we have to.

So this year, if you do nothing else, take a moment to see. Friends. Neighbors. Family. The stranger on the street. Look up from your own world and into someone else’s. Find the connection that makes us human.

It doesn’t have to be somber or grim. It may even lead to great joy or comfort. But it won’t start by itself. We have to be the ones to do it and to go where it calls.

That’s how we build a neighborhood. A community. A nation.

A family.

**

As I write this, Hamlin seems to be on the mend. It’s a relief, to be sure. And long after most of us have forgotten his name, I hope we remember the care and connection that the moment sparked in so many of us.

After all, it’s only a game.

And when we break out from our own sidelines, there’s a lot that’s worth seeing.