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“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that motivation image
overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

Jack Buck changed my life.

He entered into it just a few days after I was burned. The odds of surviving remained overwhelmingly slight.
Because of the high likelihood of infection, the only individuals allowed into my room were essential staff members and my parents. At the time, there was a strict rule: absolutely no visitors.

That changed when Jack Buck walked into the burn center looking for a little boy who had been burned the previous weekend. The staff consulted with my parents and reminded them that a visitor in my room might introduce an infection. But a visit from a Hall of Fame announcer that their little boy idolized, hanging on each word during the baseball season, would also unquestionably introduce hope. The choice was made to allow him in.

He’d never met me or my family. He’d simply been told that a little boy in the community had been injured, faced long odds, and needed some encouragement.

That was enough for Jack.

He scrubbed up, gowned up, walked into my room and into my life.

He was unprepared for the beeping, the warning lights, the respirator’s loud gurgling noises, the little boy stretched out on a bed wrapped literally head to toe with bandages. I later learned his first visit was so short because he became so emotional he could no longer speak. After telling me to keep fighting, he left the room, ripped off the scrubs and broke down weeping in the hallway.

A nurse came over to comfort him. After all, they didn’t get celebrities in the burn center every day. And they certainly couldn’t have the biggest celebrity in St. Louis break down on the floor!

She asked if he was okay.

Jack replied he wasn’t sure. He asked if the little boy was going to make it.

The nurse shook her head no and explained the extent of my injuries. She then shared, “Mr. Buck, I am sorry, there just isn’t a chance. It’s just his time.”

He left the burn center with this information. Jack had done his good deed. He had visited a dying kid in the hospital. He owed me nothing.

He had done enough.

He had learned that some climbs are just too steep; this little boy would not survive this one. There was not a chance.

Not a chance.

And in spite of all the reasons to give up hope and move on with his life, the following day Jack came back.

An unlikely friendship would play out during my stay in the hospital. Jack made frequent visits; talked about me on broadcasts; and sent professional baseball, football, and hockey players to my room once visitors were allowed. Jack did everything in his power to encourage me to keep battling, to fight for John O’Leary Day at the ballpark.

In my scariest, bleakest days, one man’s voice shone light into my darkness. One visit gave me a promise to cling to. One voice echoed hope.

And he only got the chance to have such an impact because one person told him my story… 

…The day I was burned, the news of our fire and the seemingly insurmountable odds against a little boy’s survival spread quickly. Years before social media, this tragedy went viral in our community. Neighbors, friends, and family members were the first to learn. They’d then share with others, encouraging prayers and action for this family that had lost a house and was likely to lose a child.

In one life-changing example, my next-door neighbor called a friend, who told another friend, who shared the news with her neighbor Colleen Schoendienst. Stoking the fire, she then called her dad and asked if he would keep a little boy from our community in his prayers.

That phone call changed my life.

Colleen’s father, baseball great Red Schoendienst, went to a charity event that night. He sat next to his friend Jack Buck and mentioned that a little boy was not expected to live after being burned earlier in the day. That was the extent of the conversation.

But it was enough.

The impact of a simple spark is profound. Sometimes the smallest actions, words, and deeds transform lives. Certainly the short visits and encouragement from Jack Buck changed mine.

But it really wasn’t just Jack, was it?

It was Red.

Without his sharing the news, Jack would never have known, never visited, never inspired me. So the credit goes to Red. Well, actually, it wasn’t Red, either. It was Colleen.

She made the phone call; she told her father about the fire. She’s the reason Red knew. She’s the reason Jack found out. She’s the reason I’m alive.


Or was it her neighbor?

Or the friend?

Or my next-door neighbor?

My friend, we frequently cheapen our ability to influence radical change. We underestimate our personal ability to be a spark that ignites and influences the world in profoundly important ways.

We possess the ability and opportunity to positively and permanently effect change around us. Simple action and ordinary people change the world. It starts with one.

It starts with you.

But you have to pay attention.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.


This article was originally published on #1 National Bestselling Author of ON FIRE and Inspirational Speaker John O’Leary’s Monday Motivation blog. John inspires the R.L. Thomas Service, Inc. and we’re honored to share his inspiration with you! Get his Monday Motivation in your inbox here and enjoy his daily inspiration on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.


You can see all of John’s Monday Motivation posts here:

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21021Ventura Blvd., 215                        9655 Granite Ridge Road, 200 
Woodland Hills, CA  91364                    San Diego, CA 92123  
Phone (818) 380-1700                             Phone (858) 737-6335
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