Grand Slam: A Lesson in Humility

Life has a way of keeping you humble. That said, in humility is strength. Allow me to explain…

I moved to Atlanta from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s and like anyone in a new city, I spent the first few weeks making new friends and establishing a new routine. Having always been active in sports, I joined a number of pickup soccer games (which incidentally helped me brush up on my Spanish) and decided to try my hand at tennis.

Tennis took a distant third to soccer, surfing and rollerblading during my years in Southern California, so it had been some time since I had set foot on a tennis court. Never one to shrink from a challenge, I had my racket restrung, bought some tennis shoes and headed for the nearest ALTA try outs.

If you’ve spent any time in Atlanta, you might have seen the ubiquitous tennis ball magnets on minivans and SUVs. Atlantans are crazy about tennis. They take tennis seriously, yet manage to have a lot of fun doing it.

At any rate, I tried out for one of the intermediate levels and thought I did pretty well in my matches, despite the years of rust. The fellow I played beat me, but not by much (despite his left-handedness!). I had to wait a bit for confirmation of my placement, and it was on that warm spring day, while sitting at a court-side picnic table that I had one of my most quietly humbling sporting moments.

The same fellow I played was trying out two levels up, with his right hand! I was floored, but impressed by the fellow who treated me so kindly on the court. And as with every humbling experience I’ve ever had, I left smiling inwardly despite feeling awkward on the surface.

I once heard it said something to the effect that “pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven will grow in you.” If that is the case, then something died in me that day and something even better took root.

5 thoughts on “Grand Slam: A Lesson in Humility

  1. DeeDee Miller

    I enjoyed this story so much! I love the sport of tennis and humility is the perfect description for the spirit of sportsmanship.


  2. Ricardo B.

    This really neat story brings to mind a few things here, as I smile in some of mine own recollections.
    The strongest one I wish to share is the wonderfully freeing experience it is, with all of the feelings that accompany it, to genuinely complement another person; either out loud or in one’s heart, it doesn’t matter. I believe that the act of giving praise is as fundamental to our nature as is it is to procreate. We all miss out in life when we refuse to praise, for all the various ignoble reasons you can think of. The act of warming someone’s heart has to be up there with the most sublime abilities we possess. To me, you know this when it’s real. I’ve only truly come to appreciate the act of humble acknowledgement as I’ve grown some gray over the years, and I can only imagine what my years to come will fulfill.

    A tip of the hat, the way of the gentleman, instead of a brew of spiteful pride, goes a long way to unify our collective heart. I’ll have to share my own tennis story sometime, but bravo!


  3. Coco

    What a great story. How wonderful that you absorbed the value of the experience and learned a life lesson. Often in those types of situations, because embarrassment or competitiveness had been so ingrained, the initial overwhelming reaction is a defensive one and the memory becomes a bitter one. I think how disappointing for our creator when we miss an opportunity to feel and own one of his most advantageous spirits; humility, forgiveness, appreciation or patience. I agree it is the rich soil wherein the seeds of Heaven are planted. How blessed to be the kindly man as well! Lots of takeaways in this post, thank you.


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