Prompt 5: Write about someone who was a mentor for you.
Dear Mr. Butz,
I was probably the most anxious 5th grade girl you’ve ever met. Anyone within 10 feet of me could smell the nervousness on my skin. And while I loved softball, it twisted my stomach into such knots I’d hang around the large green trash cans on the side of the dug outs before the games in case I had to vomit to relieve the pressure.
If you thought I was crazy, you never let on. You never acknowledged my neurosis and anxieties. Instead, you gave off this everything is so totally fine, we’re all just having fun here vibe that left me too baffled to remember I was nervous.
You knew I required the pitching mound to be a certain way before I’d step foot in front of that batter, so you’d dutifully kick the dirt around and get it just how I liked it before I pitched, never saying boo about it. And that one time after I walked at least the 18th girl in a row and the other team started that mean chant that goes something like pitcher, walk me, too! you called for a time out and leisurely strolled up the mound.
I thought you were going to pull me. And, really, you should have, I was an embarrasment. But you just walked up, put your arm around my shoulder, gave me a big smile, and asked me how my day was going. Umm….not real good was what I wanted to say. I mumbled something I don’t even remember, felt the tears start to prick behind my eyes when he squared up my shoulders, bent his face real close and said, Sarah, now don’t push the panic button.
I’ll never forget that.
I’ll never forget your patience.
I’ll never forget how you’d get me to crack off pieces of my serious-softball-player exterior when you’d rub the bottle of Tabasco sauce on my bat before my turn to hit and have all the girls scream BATS ON FIRE!
And I’ll never forget what you said about the Panic Button. It’s something I envoke in my life to this day. When I’m in a twit about something or another, and I call up my Dad so I can freak out at someone, he’ll say, Sarah, don’t hit the panic button.
It might not have seemed like it since I probably always looked like a cross between severely constipated and verge of tears, but I’ll have you know, those years I spent playing softball for you were the most fun. The most fun. I don’t know how you managed to push me without pushing me. Or how you put up with coaching 15 semi-angsty and definitely emotional 5th grade girls.
But the impression you left on me I’ll never forget. And remembering don’t push the panic button! plays into my daily life as a young woman, mother, wife, friend, and spouse. It reminds me to move through my day with some grace for myself – and for others – because, really, there is nothing to panic about.
I don’t think I could even pick you out of a line up. But your words and kindness and soft heart left the deepest impression on my 5th-grade-self’s soul, and I thank you.
BATS ON FIRE!