July 16, 2008
Encouraging word is a tonic
Ben Hogan, known as the Texas Iceberg, was the notoriously unapproachable professional golfer with machinelike performance. He became what many consider the greatest player ever, or, at least until the arrival of Tiger Woods. Ignoring the debate on who was or will be the greatest golfer ever, this is a story about the remote Mr. Hogan, the perfectionist, the stony-faced clutch performer - who not only survived a debilitating automobile crash, but returned to golf - to regain his title, as simply the best in the world.
Two writers had arrived in Hershey, Pa., many years ago, to ask Ben Hogan about his secret. They wanted to know how he had recovered from his near-fatal car crash. Was it his iron self-discipline he had acquired teaching himself to play golf, swinging a club until his hands bled? Was it his legendary concentration, removing every thought but getting well, just as he had shut out distractions created by noisy fans trooping behind him from hole to hole?
Physicians and surgeons told him he would never walk again. Incredibly, just three years later, he was playing golf, reclaiming the career that would make him a legend. When Hogan met the two nervous interviewers, they were prepared for a perfunctory interview, grudgingly granted by a stoic superstar.
Instead, he offered a smile, not a scowl. The 130-pound man, with a slight limp, provided gracious give-and-take about what it took to make his comeback. Yes, discipline and focus were important, but, mostly, Hogan stated: "It was the letters."
Letters, by the thousands, came from individuals from all walks and stations in life - each with the same message: "We care about you, Ben! We are praying for you."
Hogan then made the real story of his recovery crystal clear: "Before those letters came, I told myself that I didn't care whether people were for me or against me. To win, I thought I had to shut the spectators out. Then to learn that you have thousands of people rooting for you! That's why I just had to get better! And, I did."
Obviously, Ben Hogan understood that prayer means care. Even the toughest of the tough melt when they learn of Hogan's soft-spot for those who took the time to share their concerns for him, in writing. Kind words softened a hard heart, helping to heal a mangled body.
To bring the point closer to home: who or what do you care about? Send a note or submit a letter to the editor? Encourage those whose cause you support. Raise your voice - in writing - motivating those who advocate for what is good, right and proper.
Who knows, you too might melt an iceberg.