Around this time 4 years or so ago, I remember walking into Queensway Shopping Centre, the best place to buy sports shoes in Singapore. An older and wiser friend was looking to buy shoes for football on the grass. We were regulars on the hard court and decided to make the switch for a little while.
We had just had our first game the previous day. If you’ve ever played in the grass with flat shoes, then you’d probably know that you spend more time trying not to slip than you do trying to do something meaningful with the ball.
Anyway, he went ahead and got himself a shoe, (“Always get the cheap ones, they last longer.”) and asked me if I was buying. “Nope, I’m good.” I responded.
He, in turn, responded by asking the sales person to help find a good fit for me. We soon found a fit. He added it to his bag, made the payment and gave me the shoe.
I mustered a thank you and asked him why he was doing so. He said a close friend had shared a saying ‘When you are young and the feet are right, the shoes are almost always wrong. When you are old and can afford the right shoes, the shoes are right but the feet are wrong after having worn the wrong shoes for ever so long.’
I had no money to afford a shoe on that day and if it hadn’t been for those pair of shoes, I would have played with the wrong shoes and would have probably continued to do so.
If you walk into my place today, though, you will find a shoe for all sports and surfaces. Every time I walk into a sports shop wondering if I should buy a shoe for running/trekking/turf football or if I should just use an existing pair for these purposes, I remember that day and the learning. In the long run, the 30 odd dollar investment when I needed it is appreciated but probably not as much as time passes. The learning, however, is priceless.
I believe that one of the best things we can do with our lives is spend time with those younger than us and pass on what we have learnt along the way. Not only do we make a difference in them in the process, but we get better ourselves from the process. The positive pressure of living life as an example to those who look up to you is one that makes life very meaningful (just ask any parent..).
It’s not just about lighting the spark in a younger person though. Any motivational speaker can do that. It’s about tending to that spark in times when the spark wonders if it adds any light to what already seems a very bright world and helping it along on it’s way to becoming a flame. A billion sparks are good. One steady flame is better.
A few people have taught me this in the course of my life. None better than this wiser friend, who has just turned a year older today. Happy birthday.