Driving from Atlanta to Macon Georgia this morning Head Coach Bob Hoffman of the Mercer Bears and I were talking about life, about basketball, about mourning, music, communication and a variety of things. It had been a long week, one of the worst of my life. In fact on a one to ten with ten being best, I had been at a one. Yesterday morning, I shared with the Division I basketball team, my real pain from the previous week and I thanked them for their prayers. Overall my communication was not good, in fact it was abysmal.
However, today seemed just different as we drove along, the cherry blossoms were out full blossom in white, we listened to some Chicago and other soft rock easy listening bands on the way to practice and it was finally a sunny pretty day outside instead of the gloomy rain I had grown so accustomed to seeing. The white blossoms were glistening and we talked about George Washington cutting down the cherry tree and also why would Macon have a cherry blossom festival and it turns out, there are more cherry blossoms in Georgia. Nature was talking to me quite loudly and then, I remembered something Coach had taught me about "talking", so I asked him a question.
"Bob, why is communication so important to you on the basketball court and what coach taught you about this?" He said he had played by "talking on the court" and it was something that was just a part of who he was. I remembered his assistant coach from Brooklyn New York, Spencer saying, "I haven't heard a word out of you guys today at practice, it was like having a meal where nobody talks at all, why aren't you talking?" The coaches really push people to talk, why?
Many people in life close themselves off when crisis happens, they want to put on the headphones, text message or email, but they stop talking to others. Why? As a culture we are removing the language of communication from life and this is very dangerous in every part of our lives. Even during team meals, the coach doesn't take away their phones, but his rules are simple, "When you eat together, you don't go to your phones at all, you talk to your team mates.". Bob wants them to talk on the floor and off the floor. Wish I had learned this lesson with my family. I'm so very guilty of getting to inundated with the computer on my hip, my cell phone.
Our team talks a lot about the visual language of film, about communication and while we focus on making sure the text and the sub text are correct, there are many more elements worth considering. Whatever medium we use to communicate, no matter how digital and interpersonal it is, can be a weapon of bad just like good. However, nothing beats face to face communication.
Communication is not just something to talk about, its even more essential to success. We are to communicate with each other, with God, with ourselves and at times listen, but not always. There is a tendency to be quiet, put up walls, not clear our heads, not think in ways we should when we clear our minds so we can "hear" even the most inner of voices.
You don't have to talk, you can just keep it to yourself. Talking really can't help that much anyway, so just be silent and don't tell anyone you have a problem. Its probably best to just keep things a secret. In fact, let's just don't communicate and not hurt anyone so its best to just be quiet, it will be better in the long run, right? WRONG!!!
These are lies of the enemy designed to make each of us feel a false sense of security. These rules of life engagements are nothing but scrap metal that has no usage except to take up space and there is no Dolorian flying car like in BACK TO THE FUTURE that will feed scrap metal and help you fly. Nope, its the opposite, the silence is deafening.
When you blog, people give you their opinions often and some may even say... Try not to write so much and you don't have to talk so long. I am not sure its that easy to know how much is too much. The line is just too gray. You should write what is on your heart, you should share what God places in your mind in my opinion, but the length is always a question. If there is a reason for sharing, its not because of who you are, its because of who HE is inside of each one of us and what is He wanting to say. Have you ever thought about taking your experiences and writing them down? I had not at all, until people around and close to me said, "You should do this, you should write down your feelings".
Earlier this week, Papa Joe Dean had a great talk with me about why we communicate and thinking out loud on a paper. I shared with him how my speech teachers in middle school and high school Barbara Berard and Kerry Robertson and Charlotte Meredith had taught me so much about public critique, being tough and learning as a young man. It was easy to see the importance of publicly being criticized when you are in acting/directing so you can hone your craft and refine your art. Yes, its a little embarrassing at times too. I got used to this and saw that even when you are pushed harder in a public forum, it just makes you better in the long run.
Is it painful? Yes, its so much easier to not open up, but in the long run sharing can be freedom and being open with your life can help you change, move others to thinking new ways and stretch you. My father in law helped me see things new again when we spoke.
As I write this while sitting at half court in Hawkins Arena during the Bears practice, I realize athletes have the same conditioning and public forum issues as acting majors. If you are an athlete, you are constantly being critiqued for your performance. You can either get mad, or get better based on what others say, or ignore them. The facts are simple. What you do is public and everyone has the chance to give you advice being an arm chair quarterback with your life. We learn to be open with our thoughts, but it doesn't always come natural.
So the Bears take the court again, but many of these athletes are not used to talking much in life on and off the court, and they can symbolically for our discussion represent the children of Israel. They were not used to talking either, only complaining. There were many quarterbacks, many who disagreed, many who had ideas of how the strategy should be played out, but then, there was also Moses, a flawed man who was trying to do the will of God. Not the Moses of the recent movie Exodus Gods and Kings.
These men were running hard in front of me, pushing and doing everything the coach said, unlike the children of Israel. They are awesome athletes, High School All Americans, they have pride, they are also men with private thoughts so when a Coach yells at them to talk, whether they are on the bench or not, its a serious situation, in fact, its life. Jordan Strawberry, Darryl Strawberry's son was on the stationary bike riding, but as he rode the practice ensued and he was just watching. To the coach, this was not good enough so he was corrected to say something. He was being pushed by a coach who cared "EVERYONE" was involved and in the game.
In our drive to Macon, I was under conviction hearing Coach share in our "small talk". I had not been communicating at all to so many people, for so many reasons last week during the loss of my mother. I had shut out the world. Oh sure I had rational reasons for all my decisions, but the problem is that it was not "holy decisions" but "me-oriented" bias which plagued my heart. In fact, I had failed in how I handled my Mother's passing on so many levels and was inundated with painful thoughts which prohibited me from being everything I needed to be for Him and especially to others. It was so much easier to lock up emotionally and maybe even spiritually, sit on my own stationary bike and watch the game from the sidelines. What was I thinking? I was way worse than Jordan had been at practice.
I am not sure where you are in life. Are you on the sidelines or maybe on a stationary bike going nowhere and just watching the game as it goes by? Are you complaining about your life and building up walls to not talk? Are you thinking about ways you can keep secrets and are you undermining your own ability to grow spiritually by NOT communicating? Stop it. Don't go there.
Get involved in your local church, talk to God, get in a small group, start helping a ministry, give of your time to people to who are in pain. Don't make your life all about you, stop to consider others. Stop focusing just on yourself and remember, riding a stationary bike and not communicating doesn't get you very far, so don't be a whiner like the children of Israel were. Life is short, way too short to blow it and we only have one chance. When you go through the crisis, don't throw in the towel, don't stop talking, in fact, talk more.
Change your stars, change your future and start talking. Don't believe in the lie of Henry David Thoreau and isolate yourself because every moment counts, every one. God is waiting to talk to you so when is the last time you all had an appointment? Reading the 40 DAYS OF LENT has been good for me with You Version for my Bible App because it continues to remind me God is waiting to speak....
Thank you Mercer Bears for the life lessons and Coach Hoffman, thank YOU for loving people enough to push them and make them better. Its unique because this Monday night only forty teams are still left playing in the NCAA Division I and as you play in the CBI tournament in your second post-season game you will be reminding us to talk to each other, both on and off the court. Thank you for your prayers and know I love you men, I love a team whose focus is on sharing with one another, during the hard times and the good times.
I love you all very much,
Kevin McAfee is a filmmaker who writes for the purpose of inspiring others to make a difference in the world through faith in God and using the visual language of film. His blog shares the hopes of impacting culture, because his heart is in media missions and the church.