Last Friday I attended the University of Missouri's college basketball game against the University of Memphis. The athletic director for Memphis, Laird Veatch, is a long-time friend. Laird and I developed a strong friendship when he was in the athletic department at Mizzou. We texted the week of the game and said let's "catch up."
It was a bit of a passive text that many people send each other as a polite gesture. The words sound good and check off a box. But knowing an AD's duties on a short, same-day road trip, we both knew meeting would be difficult. Especially because I had plans for dinner before the game with a group of friends coming to the game.
But lo and behold, in the middle of the second half, there was Laird walking up my aisle in the midst of a sold-out crowd of 15,000 fans to greet me. We smiled, shook hands and said hello. He could have left it at that. But he asked if we could talk at the top of the concourse so as not to disturb other fans. We had a terrific conversation about family and busy lives before we both returned our attention to the game.
It’s not like we hadn’t seen each other in years. Just a month earlier, Mizzou and Memphis played football in St. Louis. We sent a similar text before the game and I figured the best we could do was meet near the athletic director’s suite for a minute. Instead Laird walked down two levels to meet me near my seat again.
In both cases, I certainly would have understood if Laird didn’t have time. But he made the time. He was intentional about going above and beyond. He did what he didn’t have to do.
That kind of commitment was repeated by yet another friend who is also a mentee of mine the next day at the Mizzou vs. Tennessee football game. Victoria is a graduate assistant in Mizzou’s Athletic Department and had a brief break between duties near halftime of the game. She used that time to walk halfway around a football stadium to my seats to say hello and get my thoughts on the game. We had just seen each other the night before. But she made me feel valued more than I could have ever expected.
Laird’s and Victoria’s gestures may seem small, but they are deeply meaningful and convey how much they value our individual friendships. They put words into action. In the midst of busy work and personal schedules, even small acts of kindness require disproportionate amounts of intent and effort. But committing to go the extra mile every day makes life richer – yours and those whom you touch.
In a world getting more stressful and divisive, it's comforting to know there are people who want to nurture friendships and deepen bonds with simple kindness based on a foundation of commitment and conviction.