Baseball players call the big leagues “the Show.” Do your job well enough in Triple A, and you might be called up to the major league; you might make it into the Show.
They call it the Show because at its heart, Major League Baseball is entertainment. But underneath the entertainment, baseball calls for solid skills in batting, fielding, running, and knowing what to do when the ball comes your way.
Here’s a little story that illustrates what I mean. Years ago, we picked someone from a large pool of applicants to train as our new receptionist. She was eager to start, happy to have been chosen, and showed up the first morning at 8:30. Anyone who works as a medical receptionist can tell you how busy and complicated the job is, and how little time there is to dawdle over coffee. This newcomer watched the current receptionist expertly juggle various tasks all morning—then she called us over the lunch hour to let us know she wouldn’t be coming back.
We laughed, making little jokes along the lines of, “Well, I guess she hadn’t understood there was actual work involved.” To be fair, she did us a favor to let us know right away this wasn’t going to work. She had seen our Show and decided she wasn’t ready for our humble form of major league activity.
What Are You Willing to Live For?
Sometimes people ask, “What are you willing to die for?” I’d turn this around and ask, “What are you willing to live for?” Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr.—we remember the many people who gave their time and their lives for the common good. Muhammad Ali made every effort to become the best heavyweight boxer in the world. He gave his time, his energy, and—ultimately, as Parkinson’s disease progressed—his life.
But billions of people have given their time and their lives in less visible ways. The Show doesn’t always play out on a big-league ballfield. It has played out in any place you can imagine, at any time in history, from the serfs of the Middle Ages to the slaves in the cotton fields of the South. For some, the Show played out in the trenches of World War I or in the coal mines of Appalachia. Whatever your script, it has involved challenges. As the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo once said, “What the imagination could never conjure, reality delivers with a shrug.”
Choosing Your Script
Sports offer an easy script: Score more runs than the other team. But everyday life is rarely so simple. We consult our head and our heart; we choose the role we will play; and then, whatever our time and place and situation, we choose how fully to throw ourselves into that role. “All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare. But in our lives, the blood and the tears are real.
Think of the people you know who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis. Some feel the best approach is to think positively and never give in, to the point their doctors feel pressured to never give up, to perhaps never even discuss the possibility that the illness might be incurable.
Others assess the poker hand differently and play the cards as they feel best after consulting their doctors. Some people, when they see the end approaching, voluntarily abstain from medicine, food, and drink until death takes them. As I watch the Show here in Port Townsend, I see people choosing many different paths. In every circumstance I do my very best to take care of them.
The Greatest Show on Earth
We are facing enormous problems in our country and the world today. The Show needs us all. While few of us will ever play in Seattle’s big-league ballpark, as long as we live, we can copy the guidelines of those who do:
Work on your basic skills every day.
Listen to the coach.
Follow the rules.
Always give your best performance.
Help and cheer on your teammates.
Smile and wave at everyone else.
Dr. Douwe Rienstra practices family medicine at the Rienstra Clinic in Port Townsend. You can read his newsletter, “Medicine for People!”, at rienstraclinic.com/newsletter. Dr. Rienstra has over 40 years of experience in combining Western pharmaceutical medicine with natural methods.