What could Matt Kemp, center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Sam of "Lord of the Rings" possibly have in common? An understanding that there are some stories that really matter, and we are the ones who create them when we fight the fight and choose the good.
On Cinco de Mayo at AT&T park, a boy and his father had front-row seats so they could watch the San Francisco Giants play the Los Angeles Dodgers. I would typically hold this young man in contempt; I like to joke with friends that no one under the age of 18 should ever sit court side, behind the plate, or in the front row of a major sporting event. Prime seating should be something a boy or girl dreams of one day having. Arriving at the 50-yard line by 10 years of age makes me wonder where a person can go from there. But in the life of Joshua Jones, a Dodger fan who is terminally ill with cancer, he confronts my question in a way no one should ever have to.
Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports, "Joshua Jones, and his father, Steve Jones, sat Sunday night in front-row seats at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The boy was in a wheelchair. Early in the game, the father struck up a conversation with Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach. He said his son was very sick, that he was a Dodgers fan, and that his favorite player was Kemp. The boy, who has cancer, is unable to speak."
Wallach relayed the information to the Gold Glove center-fielder who made a point to meet the young fan and his dad after the game. His response is why this video has gone viral; it is love in action. Something we all need to see.
Why? Love in action awakens our humanity. It elicits deep emotion--tears, joy, inspiration and it does what we are told love does. It begets more love. For me to see to watch Kemp first give an autographed baseball, following by his batting glove only to remove his jersey is awesome. We say that some people will give the shirt off of their back for someone....and he does...but he doesn't stop there. The viewer wonders if he will strip naked before this young man, he is so moved with compassion. The "Beast Mode" written on his shirt is too fitting. If you weren't tearing up as you were watching, perhaps you did when Kemp gave what he had left--his two cleats.
Jones was too weak to say anything, but he was able to post a picture of Kemp's gear and a message, thanking him on his Instagram account.
Kemp said "You have some good stories and some sad stories. God puts them there to remind you." This story is a little of both. Jones is suffering from inoperable tumors in his spine; he has been given 90-days to live. Knowing that, Kemp showed up. He reached out and gave what he had...and then he gave more...and more. Ultimately, his gift was one of kindness and of love. That's the best he can do. It's the best any of us can do.
At first, I was confused by Kemp's words "God put them (stories) there to remind you." He didn't say "remind you of x, y or z." No, he left it at that. And then I remembered a truth I once heard. I have never read "The Lord of the Rings" but Father Tim Scully, a Holy Cross priest at Notre Dame and founder of the Alliance for Catholic education shared a powerful excerpt from it in a homily I will never forget. He says what Kemp does not.
“Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.”
Thank you Matt Kemp for giving the good. Thank you Joshua Jones for making it worth fighting for. And by the way, I was delighted to read you are 19-years of age....a well deserved front row seat for hundreds of reasons!