“How was your day at school?” is a well meaning question asked by many parents that is virtually guaranteed to get an answer of “okay” or some other minimal response. Further inquiries are more likely to be viewed as offensive interrogation rather than an honest attempt at communication.
What’s a parent to do? I’ve often suggested that parents talk with their kids about contemporary events as a way to provoke real discussion around the dinner table. The story of Christian Lopez is a great story to relate to your children.
Lopez is graduate of St. Lawrence University who works as a salesman for Verizon. As a passionate New York Yankees baseball fan, he was thrilled when his girlfriend Tara Johnson gave him tickets to watch the Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays. In the third inning of the game, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter hit a home run that ended up in front of Lopez, who immediately grabbed the ball.
This wasn’t any baseball, but rather was the 3,000 hit of Yankees superstar Derek Jeter. Lopez was immediately escorted from the area by eight security guards who reported to their supervisors that “we have the package.” Taken into a private room, Lopez was asked by the head of security, “So what do you want?”
Lopez subsequently acknowledged that he is in debt for “a couple of hundred thousand dollars” in student loans. He wasn’t holding an ordinary baseball, but a historic memorabilia that was valued at $500,000 to one million dollars. Lopez turned to his dad for advice, but his father said little. “You’re a grown man. You make your own decisions,” answered his dad. Lopez responded immediately that he wanted the ball to go to his idol, Derek Jeter. “Yeah, money is cool and all, but I’m only 23 years old. I have a lot of time to make that. His accomplishment is a milestone.” While the Yankees gave Lopez some balls, bats, autographed jerseys, and four suite tickets for Yankees home games, the financial value didn’t come close to approximating what Lopez could have gotten if he sold the ball.
What was Lopez thinking? As a Latino, Jeter had a special meaning for Lopez and his family. “…he’s done a lot for our generation” declared Lopez. “I grew up watching the guy… As a minority he’s had struggles to go through and he’s overcome a lot. I look up to the man. He’s an icon for our generation.” For Lopez, giving that ball back to Jeter was worth more than whatever financial compensation he could have received.
Did Lopez do the right thing? What should Jeter or the Yankees do for Lopez? What would you have done? What would Lopez have done if this milestone was accomplished by a non-Latino? Six months from now, will Lopez feel more like a chump or a champion? These are the types of questions that really make for an interesting dinner conversation with your kids.