A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It was kind of ironic – and perhaps providential – how I ended up meeting him. We had a friend of ours from New Zealand visiting us here in Maine and his visit ended up coinciding with the Senior League World Series (ages 14-16), which is held annually just 1/2 mile from our house.
One evening, as we were driving by the stadium, I said to my Kiwi friend, Jean, “I wonder if New Zealand is playing.”
“No way,” he said, “New Zealand is such a small country and we don’t play baseball.”
The next morning, Camille was talking with one of our neighbors and he announced to her that not only was New Zealand playing (for the first time ever), but that the Prime Minister was in attendance because his son was on the team. Sure enough, I read in our local newspaper how the Prime Minister was there.
The article reported that he was taking a hit in the New Zealand press, however, because two Kiwi soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan and he was going to be missing the funeral to watch his son play baseball in America. New Zealand is a peaceful nation, and they very rarely see much combat, much less lose soldiers. Missing the funeral was a huge deal, but Mr. Key had made a promise to his son.
To make a long story short, Jean, Camden, and I ended up going to New Zealand’s game later that afternoon against a team from Florida. There was a sparse crowd and all the Kiwi parents were sitting together, including John Key. When he saw us he gave us a nod because Jean had actually run into him a few hours earlier at a sporting goods store and they had a chat since they had actually met on a few occasions before in New Zealand.
At the end of the game, I walked up to Mr. Key, who doesn’t have any security at all when he’s not in New Zealand (and has only minimal security when he’s home) and introduced myself. After telling him how much I loved his country, I then said to him, “I know you are getting some grief back in New Zealand about being here and missing what’s going on there. But I just wanted to thank you for the example you have given to me as a father.” He thanked me, we took a picture, and parted ways.
But here is what impressed me just as much: I sat about 20 feet away from him during the whole seven-inning game and I could see him for the majority of it. And during that whole game, from what I could tell, he pulled out is iPhone once. Yes, once – and it was for a brief time.
Do you understand the significance of this?
This spoke volumes to me as a father – and brought great conviction. Here was the most powerful person in New Zealand, with a whole nation to take care of, but he was there to watch his son’s ball game. Nothing more, nothing less. The most important thing to him at that moment – judging purely from his actions – was cheering his son on and supporting him.
This is not to diminish the significance of what tragically happened to those soldiers, their family, and anything else happening in New Zealand that a Prime Minister has to worry about.
But it reminded me of what is most important in life, humanly speaking. Simply put: family.
Nothing more, nothing less.