Monday over Coffee: Reckon

Reckon

My grandfather and his 13 siblings who survived into adulthood, whom I encountered at our family reunions when I was a kid, each used the term, “I reckon” a great deal. As in:

Q: Will we have the family reunion again next year? 

A: I reckon so.

 

Because I grew up in the big city, the phrase doesn’t flow naturally from my mouth, but I like it all the same and not just for the nostalgia. “I reckon” is a good ill (to use another phrase I heard), more colorful than a simple “yes” or in the case of “I reckon not,” a simple “no.” It suggests some thinking has gone on. Some calculations have been made. And then, based on this cogitation over the present circumstances and all the accounting that’s ensued, a reliable conclusion about the future has been reached. 

 

I like all the semantic ballast the word totes along—that there’s been some counting of the cost—but it also points out to me that I should probably slow down a bit before making some of my decisions. For instance, in the context of eating, exercising, sleeping, and even in my faith, I probably ought to do a tad more reckoning. I might skip over a day of exercise without giving it a lot of thought. I don’t consider the consequences before I have a snack. I don’t cogitate over my bed time a great deal. And the discipline part of my discipleship—the reading, the praying, the making sure that I’m getting proper Sabbath rest—can go missing at times, too. And these little decisions must add up. Not unlike the accrual of compound interest, they surely affect not only one day’s performance, but over time, the wider future.

 

While it covers much more than diet, sleeping, and working out, and doesn’t refer to faith at all, a recent Washington Post article by a writer named Sally Jenkins drew my attention to the importance of the small, even mundane, day-to-day decisions we all make. She quotes two exceptional athletic trainers in her piece—a former major league pitcher named Tom House, who is NFL quarterback Tom Brady’s throwing coach, and Dana Cavalea who worked over 14 years with the New York Yankees, including Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. They both spoke of the importance of establishing routine and how it connects to good performance not only in sports, but more widely in life, as both trainers are known for holding philosophies about such matters that transcend sports. For 20 years, Cavalea reports, Derek Jeter went to bed at the same time during the season regardless of where he was. In regard to how players like Tom Brady improve, Tom House spoke of incrementalism—small and intentional steps—tiny but consistent daily improvements purposefully directed with the distant-horizon goal in mind. “What separates the elite athletes, the Hall of Famers,” House said, “is that they try to get better every day not by 20 percent but just 1 or 2 percent.” The Post’s article then recounts a story about Tom Brady that occurred during the pandemic. A few hours before a celebrity golf tournament started, former NBA star Charles Barkley spotted the famous quarterback by himself running wind sprints in the parking lot. Barkley asked him what he was doing. Brady responded, “I’m trying to win a Super Bowl.” Of course he’d already won five and would soon win a sixth. 

 

Jenkins also interviewed Michael Sofis, a scientist with a company called Advocates for Human Potential involved in a study at the University of Kansas in which his researchers recruited 16 volunteers of different ages, all of whom reported a sedentary lifestyle. After putting each of them into a seven-week jogging program, they had the subjects, at different intervals, complete something called a Monetary Choice Questionnaire which measured their willpower to save money. They found that 81% of the participants showed significantly more self-control in their financial decisions not only during the program, but a month after it ended, suggesting that building discipline in a particular area of one’s life is infectious and can spill over to others. It’s a case made powerfully as well by Admiral William McRaven in his best-selling book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World. 

 

Should we get more sleep than we do? Should we exercise regularly? Should we eat more healthily? Should we pray daily and read Scripture and cogitate on it regularly? If you make the calculations with your future in mind, the answer has to be: I reckon so. 

 

God—May I reckon with all the small decisions of this day. 

Amen.


—Greg Funderburk


Subscribe to the SMBC Blog