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Just Show Up

“All I do is invite people, and you all come.”

It was an understatement of the highest order, spoken through tears of joy and gratitude Saturday evening by my cousin, Rich, after another golf event successfully and expertly hosted by his family; one which put smiles on faces, made hearts swell and hopefully, contributed in some small way to making things a bit easier for kids and families who need a break from a life that has dealt them a bad hand.

What Rich and his family have done for more than three decades is take two things they love – playing golf and gathering with family and friends – and use them to raise money for Make-A-Wish, a top-notch non-profit that grants wishes to children fighting critical illnesses.

And every year, we all come together to drive, chip and putt our way through the day in the hopes that this year, we’ll shoot lower scores (which rarely happens in my case) and raise more money than last year (which nearly always happens because we all know that’s the goal, so we bring our wallets).

Speaking on behalf of his family, Rich hit the nail on the head as he described how this event puts life – and things like golf -- in perspective:

“Years ago, I used to get mad and frustrated playing golf. And often, I’d say things on the golf course that I can’t repeat in front of you all. But meeting and hearing from these Make-A-Wish families over the years helped me understand that golf doesn’t matter. It’s a game, a game I get to play whenever I want. And these people, these kids, don’t get to do what they want. They help me appreciate what I have. And now, I’m different when I play golf. And I also want to help people who can’t always do what they want to do.”

Then, he pointed to the crowd filled with both golfers and non-golfers (I’m still trying to decide which group I fit into), and said, “This isn’t about golf. This is about you. You did this. You all are making dreams come true.”

I’ve spent my entire life with the Kraemers, and they’re more than family to me. They’re my friends, a group I grew up with, played with, went to school with, laughed and cried with. And every year, I’m honored to be invited to their event, and to be a small part of their large and loyal group family, friends and fans.

I don’t know how much money has been raised to date, but it’s significant, especially to the dozens of families it has benefited over the years. What I do know is that the event creates incredible experiences and memories for families because every year, they show up after the golf is over to tell us just that. It’s inspiring, emotional and humbling.

To be frank, I played like crap on Saturday. But like Rich said, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because it’s golf, and since I don’t make my living hitting a tiny ball, and nothing in my life depends on my success on the course, it came and went without incident (though I did, like Rich in his former golf life, utter a few expletives under my breath after missing a two-foot putt or hitting what I thought was a well-struck six-iron directly into the trunk of a small tree; one I couldn’t hit if I was trying to and given a thousand chances to do so).

But Saturday, my golf game did matter, not because of the score I shot, or any award I was playing for. It mattered because I was part of something bigger than myself, something that impacts others in a good and meaningful way.

It’s ironic that a sport that so often puts a scowl on my face (I’m not very good, if you haven’t already surmised) was part of something that puts smiles on the faces of others. And every time I play in this event (along with others throughout the year), I receive gifts in the form of reminders of what’s important in life and the world:

It’s perspective, putting our experiences into context and face-to-face with people whose lives have been profoundly and often abruptly turned upside down; kids whose daily “normal” is something I can’t even fathom.

It’s family and friends, people of all ages and backgrounds coming together to have fun and do good, regardless of our talents, ages or what else we have going on in our own lives.

It’s the “small stuff,” and seeing the adage “It’s all small stuff” playing out right before our eyes. Whether it was the little girls (one I believe who is a former Wish grantee) raising money by hosting their own pop-up lemonade stand at the 12th green, or the countless raffle tickets and silent auction items sold, all contributing to the cause.

It’s knowing you’re a small part of making a big impact, and that by simply showing up, we’re doing something meaningful for people who desperately need a break.

It’s paying it forward, taking what we experienced Saturday and incorporating that spirit of caring, sharing and unity and placing it “front and center” into our everyday lives. (We desperately need more of that right now.)

It’s coming back, year after year, knowing there will always be folks that need this … and that need us, the Kramer family and its band of loyal soldiers.

I’m so grateful for so many things in my life, and Saturday made me reflect on all of them. I thank Rich and his family (there are so many I won’t name them all here) for making me part of their effort and trusting me to carry on this beautiful mission and tradition with them. And I hope I speak for everyone who was in any way connected with Saturday’s massive success.

And if you think you can’t have an impact, do yourself a favor … just show up. You’ll be surprised at what you can do and how it will make you feel.

© 2023 David R. Haznaw

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