Posted on June 22nd, 2018 by

TLC summer is in full swing.  It is everything we hoped for.  Except…


We have not seen the sun in five days.

We have lost outdoor court time each of those days.

The clouds have pressed down on us, even when it’s not raining.


And yet….


We have the magnificent bubble.  That is sunshine.

There is “Julie”, who has suffered from anxiety and depression much of her young life, and who got help after she heard us last year at camp acknowledge that some of us suffer from some of the same things.  Really?  TLC instructors?  Really, the camp director?  And you’ve gotten help, too?  Maybe I could…  And then she did.  She told me how grateful she is not to be alone.  And to be well.  That is sunshine.

Daniel trying out his new backhand

There is Daniel, who, when we finally got outside where the optional tournament could be held, asked if he could join late.  There was not room because the players were already playing.  I told him he could go work on his groundstrokes at station drills.  He was disappointed.  At the end of the hour, he came walking out with his instructor Tessa, beaming from ear to ear saying, “Mr. Neal!  You should SEE my groundstrokes now!!!  Tessa helped me!!!”  That is sunshine.

There is Katie and Mason and Nat and Liz and Calleigh who came out to rol dry the soaked courts during a break in the rain (a brutal aerobic workout if there ever was one) on their precious free time, where they could have been napping, reading a book, or having free time like regular people.  Why did they do it?  They love the campers and they love TLC and they wanted to help get the campers outside whatever it took.  Even if it took their free time.  That is sunshine.

Natalie teaching up a storm

There is Nat again, TLC instructor, who received a thank you from a player who is one of the top in the state.  The player wrote, ecstatic, that countless teaching pros had tried to change her serve for years.  And Nat, a second-year instructor, had done it in one 45 minute session of station drills.  That is sunshine.

There is John, a wary camper from a troubled home who said his parents sent him to TLC so they could get rid of him for a few days.  When I asked what his parents liked about him, he couldn’t come up with anything.  When I asked what he liked about his parents, he couldn’t come up with anything.  So I began to count off the things that I liked about him.  He was stubborn.  (He smiled at that one and said “Why would you like that about me?”  I said “Because stubborn people get things done, they don’t quit.”  I also made him smile when I said “Stubborn people also get in trouble by not taking into consideration other ways of doing things.”  And, I said, beneath his gruff exterior, I saw a kindness and a desire to express it).  And, with the love of our instructors, this camper, who we hadn’t seen smile the first two days, is trusting us and smiling and greeting us, when at the beginning he wouldn’t even make eye contact.  One instructor even did a double take when she greeted him, she was that surprised to receive a greeting back.  That is sunshine.

Greta busting a dance move

There is Greta, who is a first-year instructor, but who as a camper was shy.  Not so much anymore.  She was leading the campers in crazy dance line moves, having them laughing and forgetting about everything but how happy they were in the moment.  That is sunshine.

And there are the multiple campers who are walking straight through the puddles instead of around them.  I have been polling them, because it truly perplexes me.  WHY are you walking through the PUDDLE?  “I didn’t see it.”  (It’s the size of Lake Erie).  “It’s shorter.”  (By two steps).  “Because it’s fun!”  (Can’t argue with that one).  “I don’t know.”  (That answer has been me most of my life).  That is sunshine.

As I finish this and the rain is falling on the last morning, they are volleying, playing GVS, engaged and smiling.  And so are we.  That is sunshine.

As former TLC instructor Dave Aasen used to say every day, “The grass is green, the sky is blue, it’s a great day to be alive.”

Is it what we would prefer?  Of course not.  But we don’t always get what we prefer.  It is what we do with what is handed to us that makes all the difference.

I don’t always do it well.  But today I see sunshine.

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  1. Rima mohama says:

    My son Alex had a blast at TLC camp loved the instructors and your Guidance Neal!
    Your words at closing ceremony were so touching and I learned great values from your presentation! Hope you had a happy birthday and we will see you next summer!
    Thank you!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Rima. Alex was amazing on court and off. He is really talented and, even more important, an eager learner. And, even more important, a kind person. Looking forward to seeing you next summer!

  2. Bao says:

    Neal, TLC staff and you are SUNSHINE! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Stephanie Harvey says:

    Wonderful blog, Neal. You have a way of putting sunshine in all the lives you touch, too! Congrats on the 30th anniversary of your 29th birthday!!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      I like the way you put that ;).

      • Lucky Copps says:

        Neil, great blog. Just so you’re aware our baby daughter Katie Thorson delivered a healthy boy named Michael Tor Thorson Tuesday evening. It’s a good thing I cancelled adult camp this summer. Will see you at Family Camp late July.
        Lucky & Cheryl Copps

      • Neal Hagberg says:

        Congratulations Grandpa Lucky!

  4. Greta Wood says:

    Heh Neal….Happy Birthday! Hope it’s a fabulous day for you, sun or no sun!

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thanks, Greta! Miss you down here. We have a bunch of Winnipeggers here this weekend!

  5. Brad Olson says:

    Thanks for being such a ray of sunshine for all those kids Neal!

  6. Karen Prest says:

    Thanks, Neal. I love to read your blogs. THAT is sunshine.

  7. Greg Emerson says:

    Love the blogs! Keep the Sunshine coming! Happy Birthday Mr. Sunshine! I hope the sun is shining on you as your light continues to shine on all those instructors and campers:)

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you Greg. Looking forward to our next rendezvous down the road, wherever that may be!

  8. Cindy Walz says:

    Thanks Neal – you bring sunshine into so many lives. Happy Birthday!

  9. Karen Mann says:

    Truly a great day to be alive! A reminder for me to look for the sunshine!

  10. Sarah says:

    Beautiful post. Neal, YOU are sunshine! (And Happy Birthday!)

    • Neal Hagberg says:

      Thank you, Sarah. And thank you for the birthday wishes. 59 feels even better than 58 so far…