by Nick Mavrick
Easton Family, I want to relay a story that I haven’t really articulated before. It’s about how we can be any number of things for literally any person with whom we come in contact–friend, acquaintance, stranger, rival, etc. If we choose as often as we are able to be our best selves, we run a higher chance of being something good for another person: a good moment, a good memory, a good example of how to treat others with decency, kindness, and a little humanity.
A Difficult Time
Several years back, my wife left me. On my birthday. Our kids were babies. I was crushed, and tried to keep it a secret for as long as I could because I thought that she would come to her senses any minute and come home to figure things out. I didn’t want to hear anyone bad-mouth her like folks do when they think that they are supporting you. I didn’t want anyone to think ill of her when they met her after we worked things out. We had a rough year that year, but I still loved her very much.
Don’t worry gang. It’s been years between then and now. I am ecstatic to report that we did figure things out. We have all been living back in our old house together happily for a long time now. That is a totally different story…
Shortly before my wife moved out and a very difficult and defining chain of events ruled my life for a while, I had an encounter with a teammate that has stuck with me throughout the time between then and now. Mark is a long-time training partner and all-around great guy. I trained with Mark along with a really fun and dedicated group that all started our days with Professor John Boyle at 6:30 AM in those early ETC days. I had been using Jiu Jitsu as a way to forget the personal torture that was my crumbling marriage. I often said about Jiu Jitsu, “This is the only thing in my world that, when I’m doing it, it is all that I’m doing. I’m not thinking about 100 things. I’m not stressing about what comes next. I’m just doing this.”
I was so preoccupied in those days, though. So profoundly sad.
A Moment of Solace
At the end of one of those fabled training sessions, my man Mark paid me one moment of concern, one moment of kindness that I will never forget. I’m not sure why it stands out so bright against the tapestry of less meaningful memories. I guarantee that he doesn’t remember it at all.
I remember the setting very clearly. I remember being really sweaty, so we must have had some hard training that morning. I remember that I was wearing my OG blue gi from the old favela. I remember that I was already stressing about the agony that was going to be the balance of the next 23 hours. Mark walked up next to me while we lined up to bow out. He said in that endearing twang of his, “You alright man?”
Now, if you know me, you’ve heard me describe some series of injuries ranging from turf toe to torn tendons…often (sorry). I assumed that he was asking me about a click in my knee or a crick in my neck.
Then, as if to say, “I’m not talking about your stupid neck…” Mark got a little quieter and he asked, “Yeah, but is everything ok?”
I started to cry right there on the mat.
My teammates all had the decency to both give me a second and also pretend not to notice (or maybe they really didn’t…who knows?). It was only a flash. A momentary loss of composure. We bowed out as usual, and slipped out of the building without any more conversation.
I have thought about that moment a hundred times since that morning. Maybe more.
What We Give, What We Get
Maybe Mark knew that something horrible was going on in my life and maybe he didn’t. What he did was take a moment to be kind to someone who he didn’t really know all that well. By being the first to acknowledge that something was clearly wrong with me, Mark gave me a gift of momentary comfort. But he also gave me back a tiny little slice of my faith in the decency of humanity. It’s a memory I’ve held onto for years–a memory that serves as a guide for me on how to treat people. It motivated me to try to give that gift to others.
You absolutely never know how even the smallest of your actions might resonate with someone forever. I like the idea of my actions forming a positive little nugget buried deep in someone’s experiences, and that these actions perhaps form a link in a chain of reactions that are kind, empathic, and positive.
The things that you learn in a school for fighting….