Meet Vernon and VaNita…You Won’t Be Sorry

Gratitude changes the brain. Literally. The more you practice being grateful, the stronger and easier it is for you to benefit from the psychological effects of gratitude. You alter your brain’s circuitry. You increase your serenity and security. You up your serotonin and dopamine production. All this works together for you health, mental, physical and spiritual.

Today I’m feeling especially grateful for the people who love my children, and I’d like to tell you about two very stellar human beings.

Eli had never played baseball, but that didn’t stop him from trying out for the team and making it. And that didn’t stop him from stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run in his first game. What was memorable wasn’t the home run, it was Eli’s elation to run across the street and tell our neighbor, Vernon Law, as soon as he got home.

Vern Law is famous. I mean actually famous. You can look him up on Wikipedia. You can watch documentaries made about him. They will tell you that the handsome farm boy from Meridian, Idaho had nine baseball scouts chomping to sign the 18-year-old pitcher. The rep from the Pittsburgh Pirates showed up with a dozen roses, a box of chocolates and a special recruiter on the phone—Bing Crosby. He won and so did the Pirates.

Nicknamed Deacon for his allegiance to his faith, Law turned his sneaky fastball into a 20-9 record, earned the Cy Young Award and won twice in the World Series as Pittsburgh beat the New York Yankees in seven games.

All during those years Deacon packed a red spiral-notebook with him, filled with inspirational sayings and quotes that got him by during times of trial. Guess what? Today Vern Law and his bride of over sixty years, VaNita, sat on our sofa and expounded some of those aphorisms to my sons. Last month they bought us a Christmas turkey. The month before that they stopped by so Vern could play the harmonica and VaNita could crack jokes with my daughter.

Now maybe you do and maybe you don’t believe that faith can move mountains. All I know is that some pretty desperate prayers moved some extraordinarily remarkable people into our lives. Vern and VaNita are two of them. You can’t talk about him without spotlighting her. VaNita is a sprite of a woman, a fairy of fire and motherly love. She’s often so soft spoken you have to crane to hear her. Unless VaNita laughs. Then the whole world hears the magic and the music in her voice.

They’ve raised five sons and a daughter, remarkable people in their own rights along with their in-laws. They’ve got grandkids and great grandkids galore, but that doesn’t mean the Laws don’t have love left over for kids without grandparents. Kids like mine. These two didn’t wait to be asked to step into the role. They took it upon themselves to reach out and love my daughters and sons. They learned their names. They asked about their dreams. They lead them in Scouting. They attended their ball games. They prayed for their wounds. They came to the silly parties I throw for every holiday and sometimes for no reason at all. They shared their talents and taught lessons that will forever change our family dynamics.

No other man on Earth could sit with Eli for hours telling him personal stories about what it was like to play baseball with Babe Ruth or Eli’s hero—Jackie Robinson. One night Vern told my sons, Dallas and Eli, firsthand stories of 1950’sand ‘60’s racism and bigotry, and of Jackie’s choice to rise above the hatred, name calling, and viciousness by relying on non-violence, character and talent instead.

I see those things in Vern and VaNita. They are kind even when others aren’t. They serve in silence without fanfare. She’s a master homemaker and makes jam every holiday season for the entire neighborhood. He’s a master carpenter and fixes whatever’s broken, and makes beautiful, useful things from wood. Forget the fact that they’re approaching 90 years old—they move. They garden. They mow their lawn. And Vern is still a real competitor on the golf course. They love God and it shows in how they treat other people.

I wish you could all come to dinner and listen to Vern tell stories. Listen to VaNita pipe in with her wisdom and wit. I wish I could share the Laws with all of you, because we could all benefit from people as loving, giving and wise as Vernon and VaNita Law.

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