“db, you have to pay it forward.”
Meet Ray Meyer, 49, Married 23 years, from Alton Bay, New Hampshire, 3 kids, 2 girls and a young boy. Been “a sales guy,” with FedX for 24 years, is the team’s Youth Director, “Love it, helps gets a kid off the street, or off the couch playing those electronic games.”
“You know, db, my dad was always there for me and my brother, he took us hunting and fishing, allowed those times with him to be life lessons.”
Life lessons don’t come with a game controller.
In real life, real human interaction, there is no google to lean on, “Kids out on the water learn success, and they learn failure, and there is somebody with them to use those moments to teach.”
I was a 16 year old punk, in and out of trouble, mostly in. Stabbed, for the first time, at age 15, left bloodied and beaten on the steps of the Delaware YMCA in Buffalo, NY.
Willie Manuel, the phys ed director at the “Y,” is the one who picked me up and brought me inside. He was 50 years old, a black man with a deep gravely voice that many times, to this day, is the voice I hear in my head.
“Barone, you look like a life guard to me.”
I thought the man crazy, “I don’t swim.”
“Perfect. You need to learn to do what you don’t do.”
Willie Manuel, read my future 45 years ago, prepared me for a life of doing what I don’t do.
To this day, in the dresser in my bedroom, the very bottom right hand drawer, rolled up in the corner in the back of the drawer is my best shirt,
on the front of the blue shirt in yellow it says, YMCA,
on the back in yellow it says,
Forty-five years ago, after much trying doing what I don’t do, Willie Manuel handed me the shirt, and I have never let it go.
Ray: “At my Grandmother’s funeral my cousin got up and read the poem, “The Dash.” It’s a poem about the dash that’s in between the date of your birth and the date of your life. I’m filling my dash as best as possible.”
Pay it forward.
It is the bits of wonderful in life that make you the person you turn out to be. The Willie Manuels of the world, Ray’s dad, who help lead you, to you.
“db, all I want to do is to leave something behind better than when I found it.”
did just that.
Editor's note: Parts 2 and 3 of Pick 9! will be published in the coming days. You can find those and other wonderful stories by db here.