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Senior Correspondent

"When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I'm old, I admire kind people." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Coach Hank celebrated a milestone birthday last week. Hank developed a severe infection as an infant, and doctors informed his parents that he would not make it to his first birthday. His parents went out and bought a tiny cemetery plot.

Apparently, opinions do not always determine outcomes. Hank surprised everyone and outgrew his cemetery plot. He continues to live a healthy, productive life many decades later. It's not something he thinks much about, but this story seems to come up when another birthday rolls around. And each year we feel blessed to be granted another opportunity to celebrate.

As I began scheming for Hank's "surprise" birthday party, it occurred to me that the big surprise for him is his age. The man is truly oblivious. It just does not occur to him that he might actually be "that old."
I am not great at surprising people. A little leak here, a little leak there, and pretty soon the cat came tearing out of the bag. I confessed the whole surprise party conspiracy to Hank a month or so ago. I just couldn't handle the stress of secret keeping. Oey!

So, we plotted about how Hank was to "act surprised." Thus began the aiding and abetting of the leak. Practicing his "surprised look" in front of the mirror, we were confident that Hank would convince guests to believe that this shindig was a true surprise. I'm starting to see how politicians get themselves in such hot water. It's the cover-up that gets them every time.

As the party grows closer, I find that he has apparently forgotten several key pieces of information about his "Surprise Party." Flunking my most recent quiz, he seems to have retained little about the whole shindig. Perhaps denial has just kicked in. Or … worse.

We can become so obsessed with remembering stuff. When our memory begins to slip and slide, we worry and fret. Could there be some hidden advantages to forgetting, selectively? Perhaps the more we forget, the more surprises we can enjoy.

We are taught that there is a time for all things: A time to remember, and a time to forget. A time to be surprised, and a time to surprise. A time to pretend, and a time to be real. A time for all things, indeed. And now it's time to wish Hank a Happy Birthday, a fabulous year, and offer a virtual toast to Coach Hank's Best Decade Yet.

Your Coaching Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It:
Make a list of things you are better off not remembering. You know, the negative stuff you hold on to, relive, obsess about, find yourself stewing over. Check your list twice and then, as New Yawka's say, “fugetaboutit!” And, prepare to "be surprised."

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