John M. Walker mug

John M. Walker

Wyoming columnist

“If you see someone falling behind, walk beside them. If you see someone being ignored, find a way to include them. Always remind people of their worth. One small act could mean the world to them.” – Anonymous

I believe it was during the last full week of July 1968 when two cars filled with students from the University of Northern Colorado parked in front of our house. I watched as about a dozen young men and women exited the vehicles and began to walk toward our front door.

My sister Joyce had invited some of her college friends to enjoy the sights and sounds of the “Daddy of ‘em All” Cheyenne Frontier Days. My parents graciously invited them into our home. The enthusiasm and noise was palpable.

After the introductions were completed, a few of Joyce’s friends asked us some questions about Frontier Days and what they should do for the remainder of the day. Dad told them that they needed to see the parade and the rodeo. He also told them that they might enjoy the carnival and the night show.

While interacting with Joyce’s friends, my dad and I both noticed a young woman who displayed a very somber countenance (i.e. she had a gloomy face). And she was not effectively mingling with her fellow college students. I shall refer to the young woman as Jennifer. Dad diplomatically pulled Joyce aside and asked her if there was something wrong with Jennifer.

Joyce told us that Jennifer did not have any money. Jennifer was going to have to just hang around Frontier Park, while her classmates fully participated in and enjoyed the rodeo, carnival and night show. My 11-year-old brain did not comprehend why Jennifer chose to come to Cheyenne when she didn’t have any money. Dad was about to teach me an important lesson.

Dad understood that Jennifer’s need to belong outweighed any and all consequences that may be associated with her not having any money. He promptly took some cash out of his wallet and stealthily gave it to Jennifer. By all outward appearances Joyce’s college friends, including Jennifer, thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of that day.

During the summer of 1992, a 10-year-old boy who I will refer to as Jimmy, reminded me of Dad’s vital lesson. Jimmy was a rather boisterous and undisciplined young man who had recently moved to Cheyenne. He clocked a lot of time looking for something to do by riding around our neighborhood on his old, beat-up stingray bicycle.

I particularly enjoyed spending Saturday afternoons during the late spring and early summer of 1992, from about 3 to 5 p.m. at the Jessup playground practicing baseball/softball with my daughter, Stephanie and my sons, RJ and Joshua. My law practice was booming and I was also coaching a girls’ softball team so I had become a bit possessive of the little amount of time that I could exclusively spend with my children.

While practicing with my children on a wonderful Saturday afternoon (i.e. the wind wasn’t blowing), I looked up the street and saw Jimmy pedaling his old bike in our direction. As he got closer, I could see that Jimmy had a tattered baseball mitt affixed to his handle bars. Jimmy was about to invite himself to participate in our practice session. I had an important decision to make.

As much as I wanted to continue to coach only my children, I knew that Jimmy desperately needed to belong. Dr. Jody Carrington correctly wrote, “Every time you think of calling a kid ‘attention-seeking’ this year, consider changing it to ‘connection-seeking’ and see how your perspective changes.” Shortly after Jimmy got off his bike and put on his mitt I threw a baseball to him.

Jimmy spent the next hour or so with us as we collectively practiced fielding and hitting baseballs and softballs. To their credit, my children did not appear to resent sharing their father’s time with Jimmy. They were very kind to him.

Jimmy’s family moved away from our neighborhood shortly after our practice session and I must confess that I have no idea of whatever happened to him. I do know, however, that for at least a brief period of time during a Saturday afternoon in 1992, Jimmy did not feel like he was alone.

Please strive to be attentive and kind to those who desperately need to belong. Thomas S. Monson wrote, “Frequently we are too quick to criticize, too prone to judge, and too ready to abandon an opportunity to help, to lift, and to serve.”

John M. Walker is an attorney and lifelong Wyomingite who lives in Cheyenne. His email address is: jwalkwyo7@gmail.com

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