Understanding & Kindness

Understanding and KindnessA Thank You to My Dad     by Patrick Fenton

On Saturday (May 16, 1970) my dad and I attended a baseball game at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.  This was just one of hundreds of games Dad and I have attended over the last several decades.  However, the game played between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals on this chilly spring afternoon more than 47-years ago served as an important learning opportunity which I vividly recall to this day.  Oh, before you say it to yourself…yes, I am old.

Growing up in St. Louis, we learn early in life there are certain things which are hugely important to our city.  At the top of the list is an unwavering loyalty to our Cardinals.  Of course, we also have a fine NHL team.  Along the way, we have had two NFL teams in St. Louis, both of which left us.  We have had an NBA team, an ABA team and numerous other sports teams ranging from indoor soccer to arena football to outdoor soccer and minor league basketball.  All of these franchises serve one primary purpose…fill the gap between baseball seasons.  So, it should be little surprise to others when I write…by the age of six I could easily recite the history of the St. Louis Cardinals and identify the current roster along with the statistics of key players from the past.

So, back to May 16, 1970.  The Cardinals lost the game to the Cubs by the score of 3-2.  In the ninth inning, and trailing 3-0, my father’s lifelong friend (Redbird third baseman) Mike Shannon struck out.  Mike Shannon and my dad grew up together in South St. Louis.  They played on the 1954 CYC St. Louis Championship team with my dad batting third and Mike Shannon hitting in the cleanup spot.  Mike Shannon and my dad even share the same birthday (July 15).  I have been acquainted with Mike Shannon almost since the day I was born, but on this day I did something I had never before done.  I booed a St. Louis Cardinal.  My father said nothing as I booed.  Though the Cardinals did score two runs in the ninth, the game was lost.

When we returned to our car and began the drive home, Dad asked me why I had booed Mike Shannon.  My response was simply…”Because he struck out”.  Dad asked if I thought Mike Shannon had struck out on purpose.  Of course, I said…”No”.  Dad asked if I thought Mike Shannon tried his best.  I said…”Yes”.  What Dad said next has stayed with me for more than 47-years.

When people give their best and their best is just not good enough, we should never boo or blame them.  What we should do is demonstrate support for them because no one tries to fail.  We should show understanding and kindness.

Over the years, many people have told me I am: too nice, too soft, too trusting and too gullible.  Well, they may be right.  However, the alternative could mean being: too mean, too gruff, too cynical and too harsh.  So, thank you Dad for teaching your son what it means to be understanding and kind.  Thank you for reminding me each day is an opportunity to leave this place better than we found it.  Thank you for endless hours playing catch in the backyard.  Thank you for teaching me to run, throw, hit and love the St. Louis Cardinals.  Most of all, thank you for being my dad.

Patrick Fenton, Ph.D.

Vice President of People Services at ECI

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