“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected
to happen.” – Paulo Coelho
Growing up, my dream was clear. With absolute confidence, I not only knew that I’d play professional baseball, but that I’d play for my hometown St. Louis Cardinals. It was a certainty.
That dream, and the inevitability of obtaining it, was extinguished upon my waking up from one of more than a dozen surgeries after being burned at age nine. With great sadness, my dad shared that during the surgery the doctors were forced to amputate my fingers in order to save my life.
A new certainty crept into my mind: My life was over.
I was furious with my dad and began to cry. I wept knowing that no girl would ever want to hold my hand. I was angry because I’d never be able to write, which meant never graduating from school, which meant never getting a job. And I wept knowing that I’d never achieve my dream of playing baseball.
The journey from that burn center into recovery was filled with incredible adversity; yet overflowing with unexpected grace.
With the support of countless friends and a little personal grit, I learned to write, went back to school, graduated, and even found meaningful work. I also met and fell deeply in love with an amazing girl named Beth. A few years later she fell in love with me (that’s a different story!). We’ve been blessed with 14 years of marriage and four healthy kids.
We enjoy a wonderful life and have accomplished some remarkable achievements. Along the way I even surrendered the childhood dream of playing baseball with the Cardinals.
A couple weeks ago, our office received a call from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They shared that they were aware that I’d been dramatically impacted by their team back in 1987 when recovering from my burns. They were also aware that I had the opportunity to speak to the team during Spring Training this year…
And they were curious if I had any desire to join them for a home game to throw out the first pitch.
My friends, I have no fingers on my hands. I have no movement in my wrists, limited mobility in my elbows, and difficulty using my shoulders. Unfortunately, there’s no possible way for me to throw out the first pitch.
So, it was with some anxiety that I responded: Absolutely!
It required a little creativity on how to balance the ball on my hand, a couple weeks of ‘training’ in the backyard with my sons and an extremely generous strike zone from the umpire, but yesterday a childhood dream became a reality. A kid, donning a St. Louis Cardinals jersey, made his way to the mound, waved at his parents, blew a kiss to his wife and kids and threw a first pitch bullet!
(I’m feeling reflective, not only looking back at the 30-year recovery that led to throwing that first pitch, but also celebrating the conclusion of our 4th Live Inspired Podcast season. A season that introduced us to 10 powerful individuals with remarkable stories and insights on how to Live Inspired. Our community is growing and our episodes have been downloaded 575,000 times!
My friends, 30 years ago a little boy was expected to die.
Yesterday, a packed Busch Stadium with over 46,000 Cardinals’ fans saw a 40-year-old guy prove unequivocally that he had no chance at ever becoming a major league ball player. But more importantly: They saw a guy in awe of the life he gets to live reminding them that anything is possible in their lives, too.
As we journey professionally and personally we will never understand the miracle of life fully. Until we allow the unexpected to happen. Perhaps it’s time to grab the old glove, run back on the field, embrace wholly the life you have and believe again that the best is yet to come.
This is your day. Play ball and Live Inspired.
This article was originally published on #1 National Bestselling Author of ON FIRE and Inspirational Speaker John O’Leary’s Monday Motivation blog. John inspires the R.L. Thomas Service, Inc. and we’re honored to share his inspiration with you! Get his Monday Motivation in your inbox here and enjoy his daily inspiration on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.
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