Joan Brock

Ernie Banks to Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

photo Joan and Ernie 007Earlier this month, August 9, 2013, the recipients for the Presidential Medal of Freedom were announced.  The medal, which is the highest civilian honor, is given each year to individuals who have given their own lives to enriching ours.

We were so excited to hear that in amongst the 16 recipients was Ernie Banks, who was at the top of the list!  (That they were in alphabetical order had nothing to do with it.)  The statement regarding enriching others lives is certainly a truth when speaking about Ernie.  Jim and I met ‘Mr. Cub’ and his lovely wife Liz some years ago which eventually became a part of my new book.  This honor only validates the feelings that we felt when we had this incredible opportunity.

Below you will find the vignette from my new Book, Come to Your Senses, where I share the meeting and lunch we had with Ernie.  It is not surprising that I included this particular story in the chapter called, ‘Sense of Honor’.

CONGRATULATIONS ERNIE FOR THIS NEW HONOR IN YOUR AMAZING LIFE!

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(An excerpt from the chapter, ‘Sense of Honor’ in my new book, Come to Your Senses.)

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Living in Tucson, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to speak once a month at the world-renowned Canyon Ranch Health Spa and Resort. Guests at the Ranch receive a list of activities and lectures, and my evening talk is just one of their many options. My dear friend Jill most often accompanies me to these talks.

One evening in March, 1998, the group gathered to hear me numbered around forty-five. Held in a classroom setting, this talk is more casual than most of my professional presentations. At the end of it, we have an open discussion and time to answer questions. The Q and A period gives me the opportunity to learn about my audience members and where their thoughts have gone. To get the ball rolling, I ask where each person hails from. On this spring evening, a woman on my left spoke up and said, “I’m from Chicago!”

“Oh great! Go Cubs!” I said. “My parents grew up in Wisconsin. My father was a die-hard Cubs fan even before he was born. That dictated us all becoming Cubs fans in our family!”

Soon the time was up and I graciously thanked everyone for coming. Usually everyone heads out the door for their last massage or facial of the day. As Jill came to assist me, though, I sensed that the guests were lingering for an unusually long time. Suddenly two hands turned my shoulders to face him and I heard, “Joan, I’m Ernie Banks.” My mouth dropped and my hands came to my face. “I can’t believe it!” His wife Liz patted me on the shoulder saying, “You’re meeting Ernie Banks! You’re meeting Ernie Banks!”

A pro baseball Hall of Fame member, Ernie is famously known as Mr. Cub. He played as a shortstop and first baseman for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 through 1971. In my mind, I saw my father sitting in the faded green barrel lawn chair in our front yard. In the summers, he’d be holding a small transistor radio to his ear so he could tune in the nearest Cubs game. Ernie Banks was one of his favorite players. I was humbled to know Mr. Cub had sat there for an hour listening to my story.

As Ernie and I talked, the rest of the guests stood watching, knowing I wasn’t aware he’d been present. When I’d mentioned the Cubs, they knew Ernie would want to talk to me—and they curiously wanted to see what would happen.

Before we parted, Ernie asked, “Could you and the Butterfly Man come to lunch with us?”

I knew Jim wouldn’t believe this one! But two days later, Jim and I came to the Ranch and ate lunch with Liz and Ernie. Now, Jim’s enthusiasm for baseball is surpassed only by his knowledge of the world of butterflies, so this was exciting!

Our luncheon conversation began easily.

“Jim?” Ernie asked with his voice directly pointed at Jim, “How are butterflies like people?”

Wow. What a question!

But with only a short pause, Jim replied, “Well, Ernie, I guess we are all survivors.” Jim hadn’t skipped a beat. “The butterfly lays her eggs, sometimes a hundred at a time. Often because of predators and nature, and because they are at the bottom of the food chain, only ONE of that hundred may survive.”

He held Ernie and Liz spellbound by the realization of how difficult nature can be. All of a sudden, Jim reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small vial. In it was a caterpillar. Yikes! Jim had come prepared with items for show and tell, and now I was nervous. I never know what to expect with him.

Jim gently laid the critter onto the table and Liz squealed, “What is that?!”

“Well, it’s a caterpillar,” Jim said smiling through his words. “Doesn’t it look like a bird dropping? It’s the caterpillar of a Red-spotted Purple and the disguise is for protection from predators.”

Ernie was leaning forward, studying the creature with amazement, and Liz was verbalizing soft sounds of disgust. Our waiter walked up to begin the service and came to an abrupt halt.

“Oh, my gosh!” the waiter sputtered nervously as he pulled out a napkin. “What is that?! I am SO sorry! Was that on the table?! Here! Let me get that for you!”

We all laughed. Jim stopped the waiter, lifted the little critter off the table, and put it back into the vial and then his pocket. Only Jim Brock would go to lunch at a health spa with “bugs” as his guest.

During our conversation, Liz and Ernie asked question after question, listening intently throughout the delicious meal. Ernie’s wheels were turning as he wondered how inner city children might benefit by learning about this beautiful part of nature. The discussion evolved into how we all go through tough life moments and have to survive. Some don’t make it through, just like the tiny eggs of the butterfly. Then Ernie shared that for two years after his retirement from baseball, he’d experienced bad dreams. He’d never won a World Series, thus he’d never worn a World Series ring. We could tell the great sadness in his heart, but he had survived that. And I know he’s been honored by many recognitions and the love of his fans. Yes, we are all survivors, just as Jim had said.

I felt proud to be there, just as if we had lunch with Ernie and his lovely wife every day. But I also felt honored even more because, as Jim’s wife, I was a part of the Butterfly Man. This gentle, funny, shy guy was again touching lives through his “hobby gone wild.”

By the way, during our two-hour lunch, Jim did get in about fifteen minutes of baseball questions. I know my father would have been thrilled to sit there, too, but I think Dad would have been even happier to know that Ernie was the humble, kind man he’d always imagined him to be. We will always treasure the memory of this extraordinary moment. …

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To order both of my books you can go to my web site at www.joanBrock.com.  My newest book is also available in the eBook formats.

To learn more about this years recipients, you can go to … http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/08/09/announcing-2013-presidential-medal-freedom-recipients

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Joan Brock