Back when my first daughter Kerala was 9 years old, we had a memorable peak experience while standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. You might imagine us standing looking at that unfathomable grandeur at sunset, properly awed by its majesty, its antiquity, its goosebump beauty. A father and a daughter holding hands and contemplating together life’s great mystery. Embraced by a moment that made the clocks stop and swept us up together into the arms of a profound sense of belonging. A moment we would remember for the rest of our lives.
Remember it we did, but it wasn’t as described. The epiphany was us achieving our world record of consecutive paddleball volleys— somewhere around 510, if I remember correctly.
And now paddleball— I mean the simple act of two paddles and a little ball volleying back and forth, no net, no rules beyond seeing how many you can do before someone misses— has come back into my family life. First during the pandemic as an activity with my daughter Talia and another record-breaking volley of 600 plus (the exact figure scrawled down somewhere). The scene was her back yard, not quite as impressive as the Grand Canyon. Achieving our personal best at ages 36 and 69 also had a different resonance, but certainly was satisfying. I did a little with the grandkids during their various visits during this pandemic year and now here in Michigan, we’re resuming it. 6-year-old Malik’s record is 16 and 9-year-old Zadie’s is 37 (and don’t worry, I’m not comparing her to her mother). Today, my wife joined us for the first time and Kerala jumped back in after a 32-year hiatus and using two cloth paddles we found alongside the two wooden paddles and the back of a few frisbees, had a full-family game of 6. (World record was 25).
And so in the way that I do, finding solutions to world turmoil in whatever simple acts I currently enjoy, I’m ready to raise the banner of “Paddleball for Peace.” Again, opposing members of Congress beginning sessions with a mandatory 15 minutes of paddleball in pairs, each session trying to beat their personal best (with no big prizes for the highest score, but also some recognition of such accomplishment). Might that civilize the dialogue, help politicians both the pleasure and importance of working together, soften the demonizing that has become the norm? I certainly think so.
Try it yourself. With your family and friends. Or fellow staff members before a meeting or colleagues before getting down to business. Playing games is a game-changer. And paddleball is cheap, simple, challenging and satisfying. Go!