Phil Hauck's TEC Blog

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

From motivational speaker John O’Leary of St. Louis, speaking to a TEC Senior Managers group:

In 1974, at the age of 9, I did something really stupid.  I took an open 5-gallon can of gasoline near a flame … and the resulting explosion rendered me with first- and -third degree burns over 100% of my body.  The photos of me are horrendous, like a charred hulk.  The likelihood of survival was nil.  I lay in the hospital for months.

Two people became very significant to me.
One was Nurse Roy, a strapping black man.  Each morning, each day, Nurse Roy would come to my bed, look at me, and yell, “KID!  KID!  You’re going to walk again.  Here, let’s get up!”  Each morning, each day.  Each morning, each day.  Months later, I walked out of the hospital.

The second was Jack Buck, the revered, Baseball Hall of Fame announcer for my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Jack was told about me in the hospital, and visited me.
As a result of the burns, my hands are crippled.  Even today, I can barely grasp anything.  In the hospital, I couldn’t use his hands.  
Knowing that I loved the Cardinals, Jack Buck sent me a baseball, autographed “John, Good Luck!  Ozzie Smith."  Ozzie Smith is the Hall of Fame shortstop for the Cardinals.  With it was a note:  “John, if you’d like a second autographed baseball, write Ozzie a Thank You note.”  
But I couldn’t write.  Or could I.  I did.  I figured out how to write the Thank You note to Ozzie.
Two days later, another baseball, this time autographed by another Cardinal star, arrived … with the same note.  And I struggled, but completed another Thank You note.
And two days later …
In all, I received 60 baseballs … each one coordinated by Jack Buck.
And I learned to get my fingers to write again.

Many years later …
Nurse Roy had left the hospital and moved away.
In 1987, I was a 22-year-old graduating from St. Louis University.  In attendance at the celebration was, 13 years later … Jack Buck, now suffering from Stage 4 cancer that would take his life, but there to co-celebrate what should never have been able to happen … me actually graduating from college! 

Not long ago (John is 49 now), I was invited to an Alabama town to tell my story.  That’s what I do these days.  The sponsor, unknown to me, had hired a private investigator to track down Nurse Roy.  After three weeks, he was found … back living in St. Louis again.  The sponsor flew him to Alabama as a surprise.  And it was!  I thought I would never see the man who had been so persistent in getting me to overcome my apparently hopeless situation.  “Kid!  Kid!  You’re going to walk again.  Here, let’s get up!"
Nurse Roy said he was “shocked” by several things.  One was that I was able to lure as my wife such a beautiful woman as Elizabeth Grace.  And the second was …

                                          “I didn’t realize how much my work actually mattered.”

So:  Think about yourself.  What you do truly matters to others.  You will be remembered and appreciated.  So, get to it.

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