Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Take the Shot

No good deed goes unpunished. Everyone’s heard this. Do you think it’s true? Does fear of the unforeseen consequence give you pause, make you think twice and maybe choose NOT to do that good deed?

There’s a young man who bags groceries at my local supermarket. He’s a special needs kid who went to school with my guys.  Let’s call him Billy, obviously not his real name, but he’s still a little kid in a young man’s body and he goes by a kid’s name like Billy. I always try to check out in a lane where Billy is bagging because he’s just a nice kid. Always smiling. Happy to be there. I’ve never seen him having a bad day. Sometimes if the line is long in back of me I’ll bag alongside him and we’ll race to see who can bag he most groceries the fastest. He kicks my ass every time.

Billy is a huge Cleveland Cavaliers fan and an even bigger LeBron fan. In season we always deconstruct the last game and make predictions about the next. I’m tellin’ ya, if Mike Brown and Danny Ferry spent just a couple of sessions with us the Cavs would be hoisting their third championship by now! Billy always tells me about his viewing plans for tonight’s game, and we talk about any game he might be attending for weeks in advance. The kid just loves his Cavs.

I’m a pretty lucky guy. Check that, I’m a VERY lucky guy. I live in Cleveland, not Boston or New York or LA. Even though I’m just a guy, not a big hitter or classic gobbersnopper, I know some pretty cool folks here in town. Several of my friends have seats that would make Jack Nicholson or Spike Lee jealous. How cool would it be to take Billy to a Cavs game and sit courtside? Give him a chance to see how big LeBron is in real life. So I asked him if he’d like to take in a game with his sneakers on the court, sitting across from the home bench and chatting up the refs from, oh, 3 or 4 feet. He said he’d ask his Dad, which I agreed was a really good idea, and he seemed pretty psyched.

Flash forward a couple of weeks. I’m on my way into the store and I stop by Billy’s aisle and apologize that I haven’t been around, tell him I’m still working on those tickets. Billy’s face kinda drops and he sheepishly says that his Dad doesn’t think it’s such a good idea, seeing as how his Dad doesn’t know me and all. I agree with Billy’s Dad and tell him so, and I promise that I’ll give his Dad a call if the tickets materialize. And then I start the second guessing.

Was I wrong to offer those special tickets to Billy? Was it a little bold to offer to bring him to a game? I can definitely see his Dad’s point of view; I can almost hear the conversation at the dinner table between Mom and Dad, can’t you? Who is this guy? Why Billy? What does he want? All reasonable questions, so I thought I’d ask them of myself and maybe have a little virtual conversation with Billy’s Dad in the process.

Why are you bringing this kid to a Cavs game, using courtside seats with a kid you barely know? The first and most obvious answer is because I CAN. I can get the tickets. I can drive the car. I can make a little something special happen in the life of a nice kid  whose universe is happy but a little small. I imagine him asking “But why? What are YOU getting out of it?” There’s the rub, eh? What would I be getting out of it?

Have you ever been presented with that rare opportunity, a chance to do an unpunished good deed? A freebie. Almost no one knows about it but you and maybe the recipient of the good deed. The internet corollary of “no good deed goes unpunished” seems to be “no good deed goes UNPUBLISHED”, but that’s not the case here. You’re gonna do the deed, you’re gonna feel good, and you’re gonna move on. That’s what I’d ask Billy’s Dad. That’s what this one feels like. It’s just a kid who loves basketball and LeBron and his Cavs. An open shot…the ball feels good…the basket looks as big as a hula hoop…a freebie…a free throw.

Listen, nobody does any good deeds without some kind of payback. Some need more payback than others, but if it didn’t feel good you wouldn’t do it. Maybe that’s where I went a little wrong here. I didn’t really look too much beyond the universe of me and Billy at the end of the aisle in a grocery bagging frenzy. He’s a special needs kid; his family doesn’t know me. Duh. Bad execution built on insufficient forethought, albeit based on good strategy. My heart was, and is, in the right place. It’s still that rarest of good deeds, one that might very well go unpunished. The execution just needs a little polish. Maybe it’s Billy and his Dad who need to take in that game, four feet from one family on the floor.

That’s not the point, though. How you pull it off is really not the point. The take home message is that there are good deeds out there to be done. Little deeds and large. Equally good whether the stage is grocery store or global. The essence of these good deeds that may go unpunished lies in both intent and outcome. The net benefit must land with the recipient, no predictable or probable harm should befall the recipient (it’s your responsibility to perform that particular due diligence), and for Heaven’s sake it should be unpublished, a private deed for the sake of nothing other than the deed itself. (This still qualifies; you have no idea who Billy is, and you won’t have any idea whether or not I’ll be able to pull this off.)

Have you ever been here? It’s a freebie. No one will know. You’ll probably get away with it, that most rare of things, the unpunished good deed. You’re right there at the free throw line. The ball feels good in your hands. Really good. The basket looks as big as a hula hoop.

Take it. Take the shot.

3 Responses to “Take the Shot”

  1. March 4th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Apolloswabbie says:

    Beautiful piece my friend, perhaps for once I have nothing to add, just spot on, thanks. “TIME.” Please tell us about the ‘swoosh.’

  2. March 5th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Dom Sutton says:

    I enjoy your musings here and on the crossfit site.

    Matt 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    Using your resources (contacts, money, time, etc.) to make somebody’s day is like being your own Make-A-Wish foundation. Don’t let this initiative fall by the wayside.

  3. March 5th, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Doug says:

    Great idea, I just did an “unpublished” good deed!

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