News and Tribune

April 25, 2013

MAY: Simply done

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

When I was younger, they called it “back to the basics.” It was usually used regarding efforts in education and spoke about teaching the fundamentals rather than extracurriculars or very specialized subjects. 

Google the phrase today and you will find among other things a book teaching around-the-house fix-it skills, a weekend getaway for motorcycle riders, a refresher course for Alcoholics Anonymous and a CD by Christina Aguilera.

Today the idea is captured by simply the word “simply.”  There is a website called “simply hired,” which boasts the Internet’s largest search engine for jobs. The refrigerated shelves at the grocery store are stocked with juices sporting the word “simply” — emphasizing the pure, organic nature of the product. There is an entire line of natural skin-care and beauty products which utilizes the phrase “simply pure.”

What qualifies for the “simply” label? 

Webster uses three phrases to define the word simply: without ambiguity; without embellishment; solely. When something has no ambiguity it is stated clearly and concisely. There can be no confusion about what is intended. 

When something is not embellished, it has no extras or frills which take away from its primary purpose or state. When something is done solely it is done completely and intently.

Would our lives be better if somehow we could remove the clutter and busyness that has clogged the arteries of life? Could we accomplish that by focusing on simply life for just a bit?

The importance of that possibility was driven home to me this past weekend. Our new tradition for viewing Thunder Over Louisville is to do so from the friendly confines of Slugger Field. We have a great view of the air show, perfect seats for most of the fireworks and we get to enjoy Triple A baseball and our Louisville Bats. 

On Saturday, the Bats were playing the Indianapolis Indians and I became fascinated with what was taking place in the Indians’ bullpen about an hour before game time. One of the coaches was working one-on-one with one of the catchers. The coach would throw pitch after pitch and the catcher would spring from his squatted position, body turned, arm cocked, ready to throw the ball to second base. 

After about 20 minutes, the coach got on the pitcher’s mound and threw pitch after pitch into the dirt. The catcher had to maneuver his body into a blocking position, with the goal of keeping the errant ball in front of him. At the end of this exercise, the catcher had been banged, bumped and bruised in about every way possible.

As I sat mesmerized, I kept thinking these are basic things that a catcher is taught in the sixth grade. Why is this professional ballplayer going over two simple tasks for 40 minutes before a game? 

My curiosity got the better of me, so when I got home I looked up the player on the Internet. Seems he wasn’t the everyday catcher for the Indians but was called into duty while the other catcher was nursing an injury. He also wasn’t always a catcher — he had originally been signed as a shortstop. The basics weren’t natural to him. The repetition was to produce a habit of good, simple reactions to make him simply a better catcher.

I wonder how much more effective and efficient I would be at work if every now and then I cut out all the extras and did my job simply. Would it produce a better marriage if I set my sights for a while on the things that drew us together, the things that we shared before life became complicated? Would I be a better parent if I stopped trying to be everything to my children and started focusing on being someone who mentored them and prepared them for the world ahead?

Over the next few weeks, we will look at some characteristics that need to be developed without ambiguity, without embellishment. They can be applied to areas of life that when someone looks at us, they are prompted to say, “Well done. You’ve simply done a great job!”

  — Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast.