Some of the best times I’ve ever had with Buck, however, have come when nothing was on the agenda. We were simply hanging out.
This happened in a hotel room in Pennsylvania. Buck and I were waiting for the next event at an air show. I turned on the TV and flipped to ESPN, thinking Buck would like to watch whatever game was on. He did. He watched for a while. Then he snoozed. Then he woke up, and kind of drowsily said, “Did I ever tell ya I know that guy?”
It was right after John Wooden’s death, and ESPN was showing a documentary of his life.
“Yeah,” Buck said. “When they first hired John Wooden at UCLA in 1948, the baseball coach invited him over to dinner at his house. The baseball coach was an old fraternity brother of mine, so he invited my wife and me along, just to help welcome John Wooden to the school.” Buck laughed a kindly, insider’s laugh. “Coach Wooden was a great man, he really was.”
One legend talking up another legend. You can’t buy that sort of experience.
As leaders, a pressure often exists to make things happen relationally. We feel a necessity to schedule time with key people and invest in their lives, or seal a deal, or learn from them, or work through an agenda.
Scheduling relational connections, in itself, is not wrong. It’s good to plan meetings, and spend one-on-one time with mentors, and go on date nights with our spouses, and regularly pencil in and block out quality time with our kids.
But often the best things happen relationally when nothing’s planned. These golden moments come when we’re simply watching TV with those we care about. Or we’re in a car together on the way back from McDonalds. Or we’re sitting around the breakfast table eating Grape Nuts. Call it an invitation to simply be there. Call it the strategy of time-spent-with.
Do you ever think that way? How incredibly important it is to simply hang out—agenda-free—with the people you care about?
A while back I took my young daughter and son over to Buck’s apartment to wish him well. There was a schedule of sorts to the trip. It was Memorial Day, and we were going to see “a real veteran.” My daughter had drawn a picture for him, and she carefully rehearsed what she was going to say: “Thank you for your service to our country.”
Buck played along good naturedly. He thanked my daughter for her picture, shook hands with my then 2-year-old son, and that was pretty much it. There wasn’t a lot more to say. Buck’s a little hard of hearing, and my kids aren’t into hearing war stories yet. Buck and I talked about books for a while. Then there was a lull in the conversation.
The TV was on. And that’s when I think everyone relaxed and started being themselves. My daughter told a knock-knock joke. My son hopped around the room like a kangaroo. And Buck started to laugh. I mean, really laugh.
Just hanging out together. It was the best part of the visit.
Question: What good things have come to you when you’ve simply hung around with people close to you?