Christopher Morley has said, “There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning and yearning.” And yearning can make up for a great lack in the other two.
In Daniel Steele’s book, I Am, I Can (Fleming H. Revell Co.), the author tells a heart-warming story about the power of yearning. He tells that Columbia University football coach Lou Little was stopped on campus and informed of the unexpected death of the father of one of his players. He agreed to break the news to the student, as he knew that the young man and his father were quite close.
Two days after he went home to attend the funeral, the student returned to campus and was back on the practice field. “What are you doing back so soon?” asked the coach. “You could have taken a week or two…we would have understood.”
“Coach,” the young man said, “my father was buried yesterday, and the rest of the family is taking care of things. Coach Little, I’ve just got to play in that game tomorrow. That’s why I came back today.”
The coach reminded him that tomorrow’s game was a critical game and he might not play at all since he wasn’t a usual starter.
But the student pressed, “I know I haven’t played much, Coach, but I’m asking you for a chance to play tomorrow. I’ve just got to play in that game.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Coach Little said, “Okay, son, tell you what. If we win the toss, I’ll let you play on the receiving team, but I can’t promise you more than that.”
The next day Columbia did win the toss. That young man went into the game and played like he had never played before. In fact, he was playing so well that Lou Little decided to leave him in longer. He had an outstanding day and, largely because of his effort, Columbia won the game.
In the locker room, the coach asked the student, “What in the world happened to you out there? You never played ball like that in your whole life. That’s the best exhibition of football I ever saw. How in the world did you do it?”
“Well, Coach,” the exhausted and exhilarated young man said, “you never met my father, did you?”
“No, I didn’t.” Little replied. “I knew you were very close to your father, and I saw you walking arm in arm across the campus on several occasions, but I never met him.”
“Well, you see,” the student said, searching for the right words, “for most of my life my father was blind – and today was the first day he was able to watch me play.”
There are few qualities more vital than a strong yearning. Earning and learning help, but that desire to reach a little farther, to be a little more, yearning…for a piece of something greater, can often make all the difference.
An admirer once exclaimed to President Theodore Roosevelt, “Mr. Roosevelt, you are a great man!”
“No,” he replied, “Teddy Roosevelt is simply a plain, ordinary man – highly motivated.” It was his yearning that set him apart.