This summer my family travelled to Cooperstown, NY to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While there, I spent some time in the Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit.
I paused for a long time in front of a display of letters written to Hank Aaron. Two letters mounted side by side caught my attention. The first expressed gratitude to Aaron for his gracious demeanour during an interaction with that person some time before. The second was filled with hate. The writer wished for Aaron’s failure and referred to him as a “niggerman.”
Decades after the letters were written I could still feel the vibrations emanating from each. The first radiated gratitude and appreciation; the second emitted hatred, anger and resentment. My eyes shifted back and forth between the two letters.
Love / Hate.
Gratitude / Anger.
Appreciation / Resentment
What I realized then was, the letters had nothing to do with Hank Aaron, who he was or what he did.
The letters were all about the people who wrote them. One person lived with gratitude, joy and appreciation; the other person lived in anger, hatred and resentment. The gratitude or the anger lived in them, not in Hank Aaron. He was going about becoming one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived, no matter how they felt about it.
I reflected, then, on my own life, for I have received plenty of love, gratitude and appreciation, and I have received anger and resentment, too.
When I consider the people who give me love and appreciation, I see that that’s how they choose live, day in and day out. Those who dish out anger and resentment live in a constant swirl of stress, anger and bitterness.
Standing there, looking at contrasting letters penned to one of the all-time greats, I realized that who I am and what I achieve has nothing to do with the people who express their opinions about it.