Away from the spotlight of praise

Caring when nobody notices but the kid cared for.

I almost missed it. My daughter and I were up in the bleachers watching her son at a house league hockey practice. The six-year-olds were skating, falling, trying to stickhandle and the arena was bursting with noise. Then I spotted this one boy standing way off to the side, crying, wanting off the ice. One of the volunteer coaches skated over to him, got down on his knees and quickly connected with the boy in conversation.

The boy stopped crying. The coach’s face looked very encouraging and before long the boy was over the trauma and re-joined the practice. Nobody seemed to notice the exchange. It was low key, calming, but clearly motivational. And I thought of that quote by that U.S. national basketball coach from the 1970s.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is looking,” John Wooden once said.

All you need in winter

I had worked late into this particular winter’s night. I could have stayed in the city overnight. But I felt I should try to get home through the snowstorm. In Saskatchewan, that wasn’t a smart idea. And when I left the highway that February night, I encountered snowdrifts too deep and broad for my 1967 Valiant to penetrate. It was 3 a.m. and I was stuck in a snow bank miles from anybody. (And this in a day with no cell phones).

“Never abandon your car in a snowstorm,” I recall all of my experienced prairie friends telling me. And yet that’s exactly what I did to try to get help. I managed to reach a farmhouse, call my brother-in-law and he roared down the grid road in his four-wheel-drive truck and pulled me out.

“Don’t ever do that again,” he scolded me.

“Except, I know you’ll rescue me,” I joked. He wasn’t amused.

Winter weather is not to be trifled with, whether in the middle of a frozen prairie or on a frigid downtown street.