The Unsung but Real Difference Maker

Politics seems little more than misguided animosity based not upon facts but clouded perceptions and outright falsehoods. Neither critics nor apologists argue from reality. Justifications are buoyed by the premise of the messenger is more important than the message as ad hominem are the standard weapon of choice. The hypocrisy of rules should apply to them but not to me appear as the Sun rises each morning. Tradition is good when tradition is of personal benefit, but it needs to be changed if it alters your privilege and not that of others. Of course privilege is nonexistent; it’s a right, when it has been afforded to you. Infringement upon your rights is an outrage, but discrimination against another’s is justifiable. Justification can be found in tradition, perceived mindset of the Founding Fathers, religious interpretations, Social Darwinism, and just because any deviation from your determination is a result of the other’s ignorance, stupidity, falsehoods, lack of experience, and so on. Someone else is at fault. Someone else has the responsibility. Will the next scapegoat please step up?

The Problem

The loudest, the most popular, the one with the most money, the one with the charisma, the one who talks about himself or herself, the one who demands the center of attention, you know the one, is the model for success. That person is the key to a better world.

Belief in that is similar to building a fire constructed of merely flash paper. It’s an instantaneous spectacle extinguished immediately without a trace.

Yes, I’m being negative, raining on the parade, dumping more snow onto hard icy ground, shoveling out and piling the dung from the ole barn higher than either you or I could possibly shake a stick at. I have more criticisms than Carter has liver pills.

Enough southern boy historical colloquial expressions.

The past few days I’ve been reading about a true difference maker, a basketball coach. My reading has not been biographical but merely reflections from former players who first played for him 30 or so years ago.  As a girl who I first met as an undergraduate student so eloquently wrote:

“Was he Coach B to you?” kept ringing through my mind as I walked through the hospital hallway. Did they even knew what that meant? Because if he was Coach B to you, he was more than just your coach…he was your lifelong friend. He was a man of commitment, fierce competitiveness, and integrity. I think back on all of the years he coached and as he paced the sidelines with a hitch in his giddy up, he never complained. I had the opportunity to visit him in the hospital over a month ago. Even with the severe debilitating pain he was having, he was able to give that signature, Coach B smile.”

My friend and former classmate was one of the girls at the time who broke the traditions and accepted norms of society as her team competed in an all-boy league. These girls were different and probably faced some public backlash, animosity, and discrimination just for wanting the same right to compete. I’m guessing that Coach B faced his own ridicule for forming an all-girls team to compete in the Baton Rouge CYO league. Later that team would evolve into the beginnings of an AAU dynasty which lasted many years.

Reading the tributes upon the coach’s passing, he fostered a confidence, a drive, and ethos for these kids to believe in themselves and support one another both on and off the court. Most, perhaps all of these girls, would eventually earn athletic scholarships which served as the path to earn their degrees.

As another former player on that initial all-girls team reflected,

“He didn’t care if you had talent, or could slam dunk as long as you had the desire and heart to play. He taught me skills, perfected my attitude, and helped me grow through my adolescence. I’m not just talking about basketball. I’m talking about skills and attitude to make it through life. He was that kind of man. He taught me defense…how to be treated, offense… push through any obstacle, full court press….times get tough but we fight till the end.”

Coach B was obviously a difference maker. These women today recalling their childhoods and how their youth helped prepare them for the unknown paths at the time that each would embark upon. How this coach taught them lessons that they themselves have taught others. How their successes long after the hardwood are in part because of the time, energy, and dedication they had the opportunity to both receive and give.

Success is not about recognition, awards, and trophies.  Success is not measured monetarily.

Success is making others more capable of facing and overcoming the obstacles they currently face or have yet to encounter.

A difference maker is someone who without fanfare gives a part of themselves to others and has others pass along a portion as lagniappe to the amount they give.  They might not be mentioned in the history books or names chiseled into monuments, but they’re entrenched in the hearts, minds, and souls of those they encountered.

To me the political arguments often seen today and grandstanding is petty; harping on differences unproductive. It’s not makers or takers, but the realization that in order to receive one must also give. If my glass is full then anything added will merely spill over. If my glass is empty, it cannot fill if shattered or not positioned to receive. Ebb and flow, yin and yang, I honestly don’t know.

I do know that some are real difference makers, unsung but never forgotten.  The world needs more of those.

While I heard the man’s name as an undergrad from my friend and her twin sister who also played on that team and most likely met the man at some point in my life, I did not know him personally. Still, I think I have an idea of who the man was or really is because while his life on Earth may have passed, his essence still resides with those players he coached and others he knew personally.