‘I have found that attending to one’s own faults is seldom as entertaining as attending to those of others. But it is generally more profitable.’
Jack Leach is a man I admire greatly, both for what I see of him on the cricket field and for what I read about him off it. Writing after England’s win over India in the first test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, the former England captain, Michael Vaughan, wrote this about the England and Somerset slow left arm bowler:
‘Sometimes there is one character who defines a team. For England it is Jack Leach. Yes Stokes, Anderson, Root and Archer are world class. But Leach stands out for me as someone who epitomises what this England team is about. He has got immense character and spirit. He has a lot of self-doubt but he keeps going. He bounced back from that pummelling by Rishabh Pant and the way he bats down the order with such courage proves his inner fight. It tells you the team are together. Every team needs a Leach…alongside world-class players. They are not necessarily the most talented players but they have the biggest strength of all, which is wanting to fight for the team’.
This weeks second test was not so enjoyable for England supporters with India comprehensively winning a one sided game. Leach still took half a dozen wickets but he was unable to recreate his batting heroics of a couple of years ago when his one not out proved vital in England’s win over Australia at Headingley in 2019. This week though, as England vainly attempted to save the match, Leach was out for a first ball duck.
Even so it’s still the case that, ‘every team needs a Leech’. And not just cricket teams. Primary Health Care Teams need one too.
Though, perhaps, it would be fun to be a GP version of a Ben Stokes or Joe Root, a world class doctor capable of great acts of medical heroism, the plain truth is that I’m not. The reality is that I’m not the greatest doctor in the world, nor am I the greatest doctor in my practice. And sometimes, I’m not even sure I’m the greatest doctor in the consulting room when the only people there are me and my patient. Like Jack Leach, I know what it is to experience self doubt and to sometimes fall short. Perhaps you do too. But even so, we who are not the most talented still remain important members of the teams we are a part, both inside and outside of work. Because ‘every team needs a Leach’.
The problem for many of us though is that we tend to compare ourselves with the most magnificent and often end up feeling, therefore, a poor second best. Perhaps then we would do well to stop imagining we could ever perform at the levels of those exceptional, seemingly superhuman, individuals we sometimes read about. Perhaps we need to accept a more modest, but no less important role. Perhaps, instead of wondering how we can magic up a degree of awesomeness that is beyond us, we would do well to sometimes simply ask ourselves ‘WWJD – What Would Jack Do?
If we do we may come up with a helpful answer, one which encourages us to keep going despite our weakness and failures, one which spurs us on to keep fighting for the team.
I don’t know about you but I sometimes find myself wanting nothing more from the working week than to get through it unscathed. But taking such an attitude never leaves me with any sense of satisfaction. I want and need to be part of a bigger cause than that, one that has me looking for more than to merely leave work promptly at the close of play, one that will stretch me beyond my abilities and which will mean that I therefore sometimes fail. Because to settle for a life in which all I want is for my reputation to remain intact and to have enough free time to make full use of my Netflix subscription will see me having settled for something that I will not find fulfilling.
So sometimes it’s good for me to be out of my depth, even if on occasions it means I start to drown, for it is then that I most feel my need of others, it is then I most feel my need of rescue.
Like England’s test players, even the best teams have bad days. But it’s important that we maintain the fighting spirit of a Jack Leach and seek to display something of his character and courage in order that we may continue to play our part, even on those bad days which are due to our own weaknesses. Though it will sometimes be painful we still need to bear that pain, alongside team mates who hopefully will be there for us just as we are there for them when they too inevitably make their mistakes. But it’ll be worth it because, regardless of how little credit we ourselves may receive, much that is achieved by the teams we are a part is genuinely worthwhile, whether that be Team GP, other working teams or the teams made up by the members of our own family. And it is frequently all on account of the seemingly small things.
Because, sometimes, even a modest ‘1 – not out’ makes all the difference.
Even so, there will be occasions, like it was for Jack Leach this week, when even the small things will be beyond us. The sad truth is that sometimes we simply will not possess the strength of character that we aspire to, our courage will leave us and we will let ourselves and others down. At such times, however long we spend asking ourselves ‘What would Jack do?’, we will nonetheless find ourselves unable to perform the way we would like. Because, let’s face it, we’re none of us as great as Jack Leach is portrayed in Micheal Vaughan description of him above. I doubt that even Jack Leach himself is always that perfect in his weakness. If, then, we hope to ease our burden by simply lowering our expectations, by contenting ourselves with being a Jack Leach rather than a Ben Stokes, we will find that we will not actually have eased our burden at all. Because however hard we try, and however modest our ambition, we simply won’t always be up to the task.
It won’t only be others then, that we disappoint, it will be we ourselves as well. So when we feel that weak, that powerless, when we find that all we have is nothing and it is no further use to keep on asking what it is that we should do, what then?
When unsure of what to do, there are some who walk in similar circles to me who ask themselves what another ‘J’ would do and seek then to act as he would. But whilst it is not wrong to do so, it is foolish to imagine that we will ever fully succeed since, if we can’t attain to the standards of a Jack Leach, how will we ever attain to the standards of one who really was perfect. For me then, whilst appreciating that on occasions it may be helpful to ask what that particular ‘J’ would do, realising full well that the answer might be to suffer and die for those who don’t deserve it, when I am conscious of having messed up, when I am at the end of myself and am finding life a struggle, I find it helpful to ask a different question. Rather than asking ‘WWJD’ I ask myself ‘WHJD – what has Jesus done?’ And what did he achieve as he hung there?. For it’s the answer to that particular question that gets me through the night when I am particularly conscious of my weakness and failure.
Because when my best is not good enough, it’s good to know that somebody else’s is.
To read ‘For when we can’t see why’, click here