By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — John, I always had a plan for you …
These were the last words that my friend Matt said to me, the day before he died after an inspiring battle against cancer.
His cancer was rare, aggressive.
I think it started around his bile duct. I am not sure.
I guess it really doesn’t matter.
It started in a small place and spread to other places.
He was 44.
Matt taught me the importance of good citizenship and community service.
He somehow convinced me to coach soccer and serve on the travel league’s board, despite not knowing much (OK, nothing) about the sport.
He told me that didn’t matter. He just wanted good citizens.
I soon realized he was right. Coaching gave a handful of young boys and chance to play, to bond, to succeed, to fail, and to have fun. Coaching gave me the same thing.
It will always remain one of my fondest memories as a parent.
It led me to other adventures–most notably as an Assistant Scoutmaster for by son’s Boy Scout troop.
This despite having only taking one camping trip in my entire life, way back in high school.
This is starting to sound like a story about me.
It is actually a story about mentors.
A recent Gallup Poll asked Purdue University alumni to name the most important things about their college experience.
In a bit of a surprise to the university, it wasn’t the high-caliber of instruction.
It was finding a mentor. Somebody to guide them, show them a path.
While sitting on a bench waiting to take a dune buggy ride in Michigan on Sunday, I got a Facebook message from a friend.
Bob has Stage 4 cancer.
Bob played softball last Monday, collapsed at home on Thursday.
He was rushed to the hospital.
There was a large tumor on his kidney. It has spread to the brain.
Another fight begins …
Bob was a mentor at a different time.
I was very young, still in college, and I was offered a sports writing job at the local newspaper in Lafayette, Ind.
Bob was a sports writer. He had pipe back then, hanging from his mouth as the looked at the suitcase-sized computer monitor.(Everybody smoked in the office in those days.)
He always had a gentle hand, guiding me, explaining who the big players in high school sports were, editing my raw copy with precision and care. He told great stories, almost all of them funny. He loved the St. Louis Cardinals. I was a Cub fan.
I had a wild side back then. It wasn’t anything serious, typical college stuff, but it had the potential to get worse.
Bob saw that, too.
He would have me over to his house, and I would get to see his wonderful family.
He would tell me, not directly but subtly, to slow down. There was a lot of life to live.
I did slow down, thanks to him.
I met a girl, and so it goes …
After getting that message about Bob, we went on that ride.
This is my life now, and it is good.
What would my life be without mentors like Bob and Matt?
I think that answer is obvious.
What would your lives be like without your Bob and Matt?