Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gimme the Ball!!!!!!!!!!!

In life, the "Gamers" are the ones who want the ball in the closing seconds. "GIMME THE BALL!!!!!!!!"

"Somebody's gotta win this for us, and that's MY job. So.... GIMME THE BALL!!!!!!!!!!"

I wasn't always that guy.

One Indiana afternoon in 1985, Hebron High School's Junior Varsity Baseball team was down by 3 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the 7th (the last inning), and I came up to bat. Like Roy Hobbs I could have won the game with a walk-off grand slam. Instead, my brain just kept thinking, "If I can draw a walk I will get an RBI, and then the top of the order could win the game for us." Three CALLED strikes later, I watched everybody run off the field while I stood motionless in the batter's box, having never even swung.

There was one person that year who came to every JV game (home or away) that we Dad. He gave me an amazing amount of support that season. And the words he had for me when I came out of the locker room for the trip home were simple but life changing, "Jeff, you will never hit the ball if you don't swing the bat."

I have not spent the last 24 years always hitting home runs, but I have taken my cuts.

A couple of years ago my accountant suggested I start an LLC for the woodworking/magazine writing side gig I had going. The best part of it was that I got to create a really cool name for my own private company. That is how I came to be the founder of Davidian Slingshots, LLC.

Throughout my life, I have often been able to encourage myself to accomplish nearly any dream I could come up with. With my slingshot of courage and confidence, I have knocked down more than my share of giants.

Yet, there are still some things out there that scare me.

This week I decided to beat the crap out of one of the fears I have always had. For the first time ever, I committed to rid my body of some blood without using a bicycle, a woodworking tool, or someone else's hockey stick. This week I decide to face and defeat my fear of needles by donating blood.

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts sponsored a blood drive at Lucas Oil Stadium. I scheduled an appointment for 12:15, and made my way down there just before lunch time. I filled out the paperwork and then met with the lady who would pre-screen me. I seemed to have all of the right answers to the questions regarding sharing needles and sexual contact with other guys and prostitutes.

I was riding a wave of positive self talk that had me convinced I would overcome my lifelong needle fear and leave a pint of my O+ behind.

Then, she asked for details about my recent travel outside of the USA.

Up until the middle of May, I had not yet secured a single frequent flier mile (domestic or international) during 2009. By the end of October I had reached Gold Elite status with more than 50,000 miles on one airline alone. (It's been a busy second half of the year, people.)

France didn't bother her. Apparently, Foie Gras doesn't taint one's blood.

Brazil made her go to the chart. She produced a map of Brazil and asked where I have been. I pointed to Rio and Sao Paulo in the "green" area of her map, and she nodded approvingly. I pointed to Manaus in the red-shaded Amazon area of her map, and her face fell.

She then told me that I was not able to donate blood until one year after my last visit to that area.

I nearly cried. For real.... All of the energy that I had spent the day stirring into my recipe for courage instantly turned into the shoulder shaking agony of an unrealized goal.

She gave me a brown paper that I was to show to another lady at the exit. This paper would apparently indicate to the "check out lady" why I was leaving with neither a bruise nor a Band-Aid.

There were hundreds of people at the stadium waiting to donate. I held the tears in, and did the long walk of shame, giving no outward indication of whether or not I was gay..... whether or not I sleep with prostitutes.... or whether or not I share needles with my fellow junkies.

I didn't mind the stares. I really didn't care what anyone thought. I just felt rejected. I felt like I dug deep and travelled way beyond my comfort zone in order to offer something to the world....only to be told I wasn't good enough.

I had excuses. I told myself that my company had needed me at our factory in the Amazon more than Central Indiana needed my blood. Yet, the reality was that I had failed in this attempt to donate my first pint of blood, and I am not a guy who handles failure very well.

I made it through my walk of shame, and I showed the lady the brown paper. She said, "Thanks for volunteering. We appreciate your desire and your effort to come down here." Then, she handed me a football.

As part of the Colts sponsorship, donors were given a commemorative football with a facsimile autograph of Defensive Back, Marlin Jackson. It was a really nice football. It was not a cheap, plastic piece of junk. It was really nice.

I wasn't going to refuse my gift, so I let her give me the ball. Then, it all came back to me....

You won't hit every ball you swing at. But you will certainly miss every ball you are too afraid to swing at.

I am not yet a blood donor. However, I will be.

Even if the battle has been postponed until a later date, I have already seen the Blood Donation Needle Giant standing there taunting me and my little slingshot. What he doesn't know is, I am Jeff Skiver, and I am not just calling for the ball.... HELL!!!! They already gave it to me.