ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

PROTECTING ME FROM ME

I’ve never been much of a hat person.

There are two reasons for this.  First is my history.  I grew up during the free-wheeling, devil may care, we-love-the-feeling-of-the-wind-in-our-long-flowing-hair 1960s and 1970s.  Our fathers wore hats.  So did cowboys, detectives and Mouseketeers.  The only really cool people who wore hats were baseball players.  But they only wore their hats while they were playing baseball.  They were utilitarian.  And I wasn’t interested in anything utilitarian.  That was way too “establishment” for me.

The second reason is . . . well, my head.  It’s huge.  And my face is kind of round.  Picture one of those yellow smiley faces.  Now put a hat on it.  Sorta dorky, huh?

I rest my case.

So when my wife, Anita, suggested that I wear a hat to the football game last Saturday, I pretty much shrugged it off.

“I don’t think I’ll need one,” I said.

“It’s going to be hot, and you’ll be sitting in the sun all afternoon,” she said.

“I’ll be fine,” I said.  And out the door I went with my teenage son, Jon.

When we got to the stadium Jon decided that HE needed a hat.  He picked out a great one, and urged me to do the same.

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

“Well, at least get some sun block,” he said, pressing a small tube into my hand.

I put the sun block back on the shelf.  “I’ll be fine,” I said.

You already know what’s coming, don’t you?

We had a great time at the game – our team won!  We had terrific seats in the east bleachers – facing the afternoon sun.  All told we sat there, broiling in 95 degree temperatures, for more than four hours.

I was feeling exhilarated – albeit a little over-baked – as we made our way back to the car.  We talked about the game and decided our team would do well against next week’s nationally ranked opponent.  By the time we fought through the post-game traffic and pulled into our driveway we had strategized an undefeated season and a national championship.

Unfortunately, my face was on fire.  And my arms.  My head ached, I was sore all over, the room was spinning and my stomach was churning.

Other than that, I was fine.

“You look fried,” Anita said as she reached for the pain-killing antiseptic spray.

“Maybe a little,” I moaned as I collapsed into the first chair that spun past me.

“I tried to get him to wear some sun block,” Jon said.  “I really tried.”

“I know,” Anita said as she vigorously sprayed my arms and face.  “Sometimes you just can’t save him from himself.”

I didn’t care for the way they were speaking about me as if I wasn’t there.  But when I tried to object, my mouth wouldn’t move.  I think it was welded shut.  So I just sat there while my wife tenderly ministered to me.  To her credit, she never said “I told you so.”  But she was thinking it.  I could tell by the bemused little smile on her face.  She was thinking it.  Big time.

And with good reason.  People who love me tried to protect me.  But I refused to be protected.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who do that.  Despite warnings and objections from important people in our lives we don’t eat right.  We don’t get enough exercise.  We don’t wear a seat belt when we drive.  We don’t get enough sleep.  We think we’re fine.  We’ve got everything under control.  Then one day we get burned – sometimes literally.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to start paying more attention to those who are trying to warn me about . . . well . . . me.  I can’t promise that I’ll always do what they tell me to do.  But I’ll at least listen.

And I’ll wear that hat.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

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