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My friend Brent made fun of my old blog. I can’t say I blame him. It was cumbersome and awkward. Whenever people asked where I was writing my catch-playing stories, I often had to explain the origin of the title, “Whispered Writing.” The phrase is a tribute to someone I consider my writing mentor, Robert Benson.

My friend Byron owns a bookstore in Pennsylvania, Hearts & Minds Books. It is truly one of the best bookstores in the country. Under the “Books” header, you’ll find Byron’s email address and phone number. My dream is that Hearts & Minds Books will send my books all across the country. Byron packages each book with care and opening one of his plain-paper-wrapped book bundles is sheer joy.

In the 13 years I’ve known him, Byron has sent me a book for free exactly twice. “I read this book and thought of you,” he wrote on a post-it-note and stuck it to the cover of The Echo Within by Robert Benson. I started reading the book the day it came in the mail. It felt like Benson was sitting at a table giving me life advice. It is one of those books I’ve since purchased several times and can’t seem keep a copy on my bookshelves; I keep giving it away to friends. I’ve even checked it out from the library multiple times.

At the back of the book was a note saying that, should I want to contact the author, I could. So I did. I wrote a letter thanking Benson for his story only to receive a postcard from him the following week with an invitation to call at my nearest convenience. I called and accidentally dialed a wrong number. I called a second time and learned that Benson would be coming to Kansas City on a book tour and wanted to know if I would like to have dinner with him.

How’s that for serendipitous timing?

I picked up Benson at his hotel, we ate fantastic Italian food, and we talked for hours. After dinner, I returned him to his hotel and scribbled down some of his words on a napkin. Benson told me these words that resonated deep in my heart, “This world is desperate for good sentences, for good stories, and for those who are willing to do the hard work necessary to bring them to life.”

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” That’s what John Keating said in Dead Poets Society. As a 15-year old freshman in high school with ridiculous dreams, I believed him. We live in a storied world. We are a storied people.

Time to lace up and double-knot my shoes, stretch, and make new friends as I seek new, dream-chasing, fear-conquering stories of baseball, life, and faith.