Last Friday, I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at St Joseph’s School Year 8 Leaver’s Lunch to 47 students aged 13 years of age, school administrators and parent helpers.
The story led into how some of the students may have seen me standing at the end of a ramp outside the staffroom when the home bell goes. I stand there awaiting to meet and greet kids so as to escort them back to Outaskool Papanui for after school childcare. In fact, why would they notice me when I blend in looking just like any other parent there to pick up children?
However, I made the statement that I was “that man” so as to take the emphasis off “I” when I asked the next questions, “Now, why would “that man” be standing in front of you giving a speech?” “What would “that man” possibly have to say or tell you what to do?”
‘That man’ informed them that he wasn’t there to tell them what to do nor there to change them to do anything. But he did promise the students that he had a gift for them before the end of the presentation and that ‘that man’ had a story to share with some suggestions about how life is what you make of it because, the ball is in your court.
‘Than man’ continued to show some personally collected photos of his travels so as to build up audience rapport and take them there – cycling the length of New Zealand to raise money for kids their age who had cancer; walking 380kms from Istanbul to Gallipoli to commemorate ANZAC Day; biking 800kms across Spain to walk it in reverse to go running with the bulls in Pamplona; climbing up Africa’s highest mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro; trekking up to the wild Gorilla’s in Rwanda; volunteering in Borneo at an Orangutan Sanctuary to help save our closest cousins; to following in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps of trekking the Himilaya’s and visiting Mount Everest Base Camp.
A show of hands as to whether ‘that man’ needed to be rich or live in a flash house or drive a flash car to become the person he wanted to become from the experiences he’d collected. Photo’s of working, living in a caravan and driving an $1800 car bought off the side of the road had hands from being raised to falling still. Photo’s showing someone worse off than ‘that man’ after each questions photo’s amplified the need to be grateful for what you are or have or do.
I was confident that I had the audience captivated.
The message was quite simple and that was, life is like a game of tennis and the ball in your court.
‘That man’ advised, “YOU get to chose how high you throw the ball, how far you throw the ball, or your attitude to bounce back from the times when you drop the ball.”
‘That man’ rounded the story out by sharing how ‘that man’ knows that whatever he does in life, that the ball is in his court. ‘That man’ who stands as the end of the ramp outside the staffroom.
There were two gifts ‘that man’ gave to the students.
The first was a wallet card with the words ‘The ball is in YOUR court’ written on the front and on the reverse, the words to suggest that life is what you make of it when: ‘It’s your choice where you hit the ball; Your attitude is important if you drop the ball; Play with the ball as all kidz should’.
The second gift to everyone of the students was a tennis ball.
As ‘that man’ later stood at the end of the ramp outside the staff room waiting for the kids he was collecting with a smile on his face, kids passed him bouncing tennis balls. He overheard those words, “there’s ‘that man’.”