To the point week of 6-17-10

4

NOTE TO KIDS: PLEASE, please, go outside and play for an hour a day.

Please.

That’s the message that you can find on television commercials and other media campaigns, most using professional athletes, in an attempt to get our kids up off of the couch. The NFL’s “Play 60” campaign encourages children to go outside and play for an hour a day, reporting that exercise outside is good for them.

Come on, it’s just an hour.

Well here’s a note for all of them – get outside. It’s summer.

Yes, I admit that I’m nearly a dinosaur as I near 50, but we adults remember a time when we were kids that you couldn’t keep us inside during the summer. We would wake up, get dressed, and run outside to find other kids in the neighborhood.

We’d reluctantly come home for some lunch, and then it was back outside to play some sport or game or ride bicycles until it became too dark to see.

My brothers and I were called home for the night by a dinner bell that my mom would expertly ring out the back door. No matter where we were, when we heard the bell we knew that we best be heading home – because if we were late we would be punished –

By not being allowed to go outside the following day.

In fact, the worst thing that could happen to you as a kid was to be made to stay inside. That was a killer.

I remember having to ask permission for a friend to even come inside our house – and vise versa – because it was expected that everyone would stay outside all day.

I grew up on a great block filled with identical houses and lots of kids. I was the youngest on the street, but that didn’t matter when summer came, because we needed all the kids we could find so we could play a game.

Around the corner from my house was an empty lot that we knew as “Terry’s Field”. I didn’t know Terry’s last name – heck, I’m not sure I ever saw Terry at all – but he and his wife lived in the house next to the lot, and they let it be fair game for whatever we were doing.

In the summer, it was baseball. After gathering up the neighborhood kids – boys and girls – we would choose sides and get started. We had older kids who played, too, and they made sure that the sides were “even”, and everyone got to play, young or old.

If we didn’t have enough for a full team, we would “close” a field - meaning that if you hit it to that field, you were out. Right field was normally closed, but when I got my chance to bat, being left handed, they would move the leftfielder over to right and close left field.

If the numbers were really low, we’d play “pitcher’s hand”. This was where there was not a first baseman, and the batter was out if the ball was fielded and back into the pitcher’s hand before the runner got to first.

We had “ghost runners” if you were on base and it was your turn to bat again; and we made up a game known as “Five Dollars” that we played religiously every night.

The rules? There was a batter and a bunch of fielders. The batter would hit the ball, and if you caught it in the air, it was worth a dollar. A one-hopper was worth 50 cents; and fielding a grounder cleanly would net you a quarter.

The first one to accumulate five dollars got to go in and be the hitter, and it started all over again.

Not exactly X-Box, but we couldn’t wait to play each and every night.

Our time to run around the neighborhood also created a strong bond of friendship between us. As fondly as I look back at those games, I also remember Ronnie Freshwater and the Power boys – Mike and Steve. There was Mike and George Shaw just down the street; and Charlie “Sky Ball” Pierce lived on the corner behind Terry’s Field.

The Bell boys, Jim and Jeff, lived up our street; and Randy Puterbaugh and Tim Eadler lived a street over, just down a few houses from Jeff Blansett and Mark Hilligoss. The Tanner brothers also found our daily game, and the Turner kids lived just across the street from me and my brothers, Mike and Tim.

Those kids – now (old) adults – were the foundation of my youth. They taught me how to cooperate and find common ground; and they also taught me that everyone deserves a chance to play, not just the big kids.

They taught me that getting tackled didn’t hurt as badly as I feared; and they taught me that friendship trumps trophies everytime.

I don’t get back to my old neighborhood very much anymore. All of the kids have moved on and have their own lives now. Some of their parents still live on the street, and on occasion I get the chance to see some of them. They always greet me like it was just yesterday that I was running through their back yard. Like it was moments ago that we were drinking from the garden hose (best water ever); and a blink of the eye since we were pitching tents in the backyard and telling ghost stories until I got too scared and had to go inside.

I miss those times, but I would have never had them had I been inside all day watching satellite TV and playing video games and surfing the web. Our kids do get to live in a wonderful age of technology, but we as parents really need to do them a favor:

Kick them out of your house.

Not forever, just for the day.

Make them go outside and find other kids who have also been thrown out of their houses. Maybe they’ll find enough to get a game going; or maybe they’ll ride a bike or toss a ball.

I don’t know, but I do know that they’ll get some sun and some exercise; and they’ll also develop relationships that will last a lifetime.

Love your kids – make them go outside.

*

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I want to take a moment to tell my dad “Happy Father’s Day” and that I love him.

It’s relatively hard to have a father-son relationship from 100 miles away; but a lot of who I am as a person and as a citizen I learned from my dad. He taught me that there are causes bigger than myself; and that we as human beings need to care about each other and take care of each other.

We need to defend the defenseless; and comfort those who are hurting.

We need to make sure others know that we care about them and are here to help them when they need us.

I learned a lot from my dad, and although I won’t be with him this Father’s Day; I hope he knows that I love him – even when we don’t say it.

I love you, dad. Happy Father’s Day.