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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

Where Is The Light?

Tonight is the darkest, longest night of the year.  Winter Solstice.

Sometimes it can feel like the darkness will never lift.

We are divided politically, religiously, economically, racially; by gender, sexuality, personally, and societally.  We shout over each other.  We do not listen.  We do not ask what it feels like to be the person across the table, across the aisle, across the sea.  We do not ask, “How might I help you suffer less?”

People in power will do anything to keep their power.  Including hurting others, demeaning others, marginalizing others.  Not listening to others.

We all have some power.  We are afraid to let go of our power.  Because then what?

In all this darkness, where is the light?

I was meeting a good friend in a restaurant Saturday in Chanhassen.  I looked over at another table and saw a guy in a Minnesota Wild sweatshirt, and thought, “I know that guy.  But from where?”  I am the kind of person, much to my spouse’s chagrin, who will walk up to complete strangers and say, “Don’t I know you?”  They will look at me strangely and say, “No”, then warily tiptoe away.   It has happened many, many times.  But does that cause me to give up?  Of course it doesn’t.  My spouse says to me over and over, “People don’t know you, Neal, you just think everybody should.”  I’m not sure if she is right or if I am just a Golden Retriever type of guy who will walk up to anyone and say, “Hey! Hey! You look like a nice person!  Wanna play?!”

In any event, believe it or not, I resisted the temptation to approach the guy in the Wild sweatshirt.

My friend and I began talking animatedly about Tennis & Life Camps.  We both love it, he as a camper and dad, and I as a worker.  Whenever you can talk about TLC with someone as passionate about it as you, it can get loud and happy.

Near the end of our conversation, the guy in the Wild sweatshirt approached the table.  He said, “Excuse me, I heard you talking about TLC.  Are you Neal?”  (See, Leandra, some people DO know me…).  I said, yes, and he said, “My daughter goes to TLC every summer!”  I said, “I know you won’t believe this, but I recognized you.  Have you been to camp, too?”  He said, “No, but I come to the TLC final program every time I pick her up.”

(the girl pictured is not Emily)

They were from Hutchinson.  There in a restaurant in the middle of Chanhassen was a guy from Minneapolis (me) and a guy from Hutchinson (Troy) talking about TLC.  Then he said, “I have to tell you a story.  Last summer, my daughter, Emily, and I were out hitting tennis balls, and she stopped me at one point and said, ‘Dad, don’t coach me, please!  Remember what they said at TLC?’  (We teach parents their one and only job as a parent is to be cheerleader and playing partner, never to coach, unless your child begs you to, as it has such a negative impact on most parent/child relationships).  Troy said, “I stopped and thought, she’s right.  She’s right.  And I stopped coaching and just had fun.  Thank you for that advice at the final program.  It changed our whole outing.”

It is the advice Steve Wilkinson gave parents for decades.

Where is the light?  It’s right there.  In a child who is brave enough to say to her dad, “I want you as my dad, not my coach.”  And it is there in a dad who hears his child and, as the person in the position of some power, really listens, and follows his daughter’s lead to a better relationship.  It is there in his obvious love for and pride in his daughter for sticking up for herself and teaching him a lesson all of us parents need over and over but are sometimes too prideful to hear.

There is the light.

Can we be like Troy and Emily?  Yes, we can.  And as we are, more and more light will pour out of our lives for others.

This world is plunged in darkness often.  But we can do something about it, on and off the court.

I see it in a dad and a daughter who love each other and listen to each other.

We all have it.  If we commit to it and share it, we can bring light into a sometimes very dark world.


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