What I learned from Jack Smith

As many of you from the Kansas City area have heard, longtime Blue Jay manager, coach, and fan Jack Smith passed away this past week unexpectedly in his home.  The news hit our program (as well as many in our community) hard, since none of us saw this coming.  Jack had served in the Liberty athletic program for a total of 47 years, which is truly a remarkable and unheard of feat.  He had literally seen it all when it came to Blue Jay athletics and his commitment to helping kids was unmatched.

Jack Smith news story

As I reflect about Jack and his involvement in my own life, I can’t help but take away the following  lessons that I can apply to myself today:

1)  Live life to the fullest

Jack Smith lived everyday to the fullest.  He was passionate about sports and used that as an avenue to help others.  Jack didn’t have to come to the countless football/basketball practices, games, and other events he came to over the years (he was never paid financially for his services), but he came anyway because he loved sports and loved being a part of kids’ lives.  Jack knew he could make an impact, and he certainly did, as people from all over the Kansas City area not only knew who Jack was, but knew him personally because of what he had done.  Because of Jack, I can see how to use my passions to make a powerful impact on others just by being persistent and enthusiastic about every activity I participate in–regardless of my own personal gain.

hoopin

2)  Overcome the obstacles in your life–without whining or complaining

Jack had many obstacles in his life.  Specifically, Jack developed a mental handicap when he was younger that slowed his speech and overall functioning.  He did not let that slow him down, however, as he continued to live his life to the fullest and make an impact despite his physical limitations.  He could have easily thought to himself he wasn’t “good enough” or “capable enough” to make a difference and just wallow in self-pity, but he didn’t.  Jack decided to overcome his circumstances and use his life to empower others by showing them no matter what obstacles life throws at you, you can overcome them with a positive attitude and passionate spirit.  Because of Jack, I can see how small and frivolous my own “circumstances” are and find encouragement to overcome them to make an impact on others.

Jack and I at Kickapoo Tournament in 2004

3)  Smile

I’ve known Jack ever since my sophomore year of high school (2002), and never once do I remember him frowning, complaining, or being negative.  In fact, 99 percent of the time anyone ever looked at Jack, they’d see a smile upon his face.  As referenced to before, Jack could have easily dwelt on the negative aspects of life and “viewed the glass as half empty,” but he didn’t.  In contrast, Jack dwelt on the positive things about life and “viewed the glass as half full.”  He took joy in the small things and genuinely loved serving others–without any expectations of outward recognition or monetary gain.  Because of Jack, I can see how to consistently view life through a positive lens and attack each day with a smile–no matter if I’m getting recognition for what I’m doing or not.

Jack

Jack impacted countless young people (similarly to how he impacted me) throughout his life, and I’m thankful God blessed our community with his presence for the past 67 years.  And although he may not be with us in a physical sense, I take comfort knowing  he’s up in Heaven looking down at every Blue Jay event with a smile on his face, proclaiming the same two words he’s said so many times throughout his life:

“Go Jays!”

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