The Right Words at the Right Time
by Marlo Thomas and Friends.

This is a wonderful, inspirational book of stories submitted by Marlo Thomas and her many famous friends.  There are stories by people like Muhammad Ali, President Jimmy Carter, Rudolf Giuliani, Paul McCartney, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride, Carlos Santana, Oprah Winfrey.......and the list goes on.

One of my favourite stories is by David E. Kelly, a wonderful writer of television stories and the writer of this story that touched me deeply.

Sometimes it isn't words at all.

In the 1970s, Bobby Orr was indisputably the best hockey player in the world.  Soft-spoken, he was a man of very few words, in fact, who always chose to let his actions speak.

Like any you boy growing up in Boston at the time, I wanted to be Bobby Orr.  So much so that one summer, at age eleven, I ventured to Orillia, Ontario, for two weeks to attend his hockey camp.  Somewhat to my disappointment, but not total surprise, Bobby was not actually there much.  But I did meet him.  I had the very brief joy of talking to him....having my shin pads tapped by his stick...being touched by his kindness.

The two weeks went by quickly, and when it came time to leave, I vowed to come say hello at a Bruins game in Boston and he graciously encouraged me.  "Do that," he said, as I'm sure he did to so many other starry-eyed kids.

Well, three months later, I got my ticket and set off to that Bruins game.  I was sure to get there early, so I could secure a position on the runway between the Bruins locker room and the ice surface.  I waited there for well over an hour, sandwiched among the hundreds of other fans, all there for the very same reason: to get an up-close look at the best hockey player in the world.

Game time finally arrive, the locker room doors opened, and out came the Boston Bruins.  Immediately of course, everyone was screaming one mans name.  I did my best to join in, but to little avail.  You see, at game time, Bobby Orr's focus was singular, and it didn't include hysterical people yelling for his attention.  All that mattered now was the contest before him, and Bobby Orr marched forward, head down, making it clear that he and I would not be exchanging pleasantries today.

But it wasn't a loss.  Because, up close, I got to see something else: the game face of Bobby Orr.  I got to see the work ethic in his eyes, the intensity, the total concentration...the mental fierceness that helped him achieve such greatness.  In one glance I saw the competitor, the warrior, and I was mesmerized, so much so I even stopped calling his name.  I just stood there in awe, watching this legend pass.

At first I didn't even notice the oncoming hockey glove.  I did see the multitude of hands reaching out to take hold of it.  But the glove, containing Bobby Orr's hand, had only one destination.  Me.  I don't know how he saw or heard me in that mass of people, particularly since I was partially blocked and his head was down, but as he passed, he grabbed my hand and squeezed it before stepping onto the ice.  It all happened in a second.  That squeeze of a hand said "hello."  It said, "I remember you."  It said, "good to see you again."  But what it mostly said to me in that moment....was who and what Bobby Orr was.  The greatest hockey player in the world had touched me once again with kindness.  With one gentle squeeze, he taught me it is not what you say in life, nor what you do, but rather.... how you "be."

That squeeze occurred over thirty years ago but I can still feel it.  Today, I am a father of young children, and like any parent, I have dreams for them.  But mainly, I hope they grow up to be like Bobby Orr, whether or not they choose to play hockey.

With a little help from Kevin MacDonald
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