on a mission
12/4/2017 | by Chris Brewer & Jon Miller
Who is Donnie Bosco and what makes him want to do more than just knock on your door?
It’s summer in Salt Lake City. It’s hot. Like really hot. Temperatures have been over 100 degrees since I arrived here three days ago. All of the talk so far has been about the disappointing first round playoff loss by their beloved Utah Jazz to the Golden State Warriors just a few months ago. It was Jerry Sloan’s first year coaching the team after the abrupt resignation by their long-time coach Frank Layden. People here love their Jazz, they love their BYU Cougars and they love their sports. To know the passion of the sports here you have to know the history of Salt Lake.
The settlement of Salt Lake City was not typical in many ways of the westward movement of settlers and pioneers in the United States. Like the Puritan founders of Massachusetts more than 200 years earlier, Mormons considered themselves on a mission from God, having been sent into the wilderness to establish a model society.
And that’s why I’m here. To meet someone else on a mission who just returned from a mission whose mission is to become the greatest Double Dutch competitor in the history of Utah; 19 year-old Donnie Bosco.
I’m used to Mormons knocking on my door, but this time I’m knocking on one of theirs. Donnie greats me with an infectious smile, a beaten up bike helmet and an ice cold large milk. I like this guy I think to myself. I would root for this guy. No gold chains, no swagger, just a nice guy who from all appearances just wants to compete…from the heart.
We sit on the back patio of his parents 4 bedroom suburban home located in Fruit Heights, just outside of Salt Lake. The backyard overlooks a winding creek, big beautiful pine trees that point to the heavens and in the distance are the Wasatch Mountains. It’s a picturesque scene. The only sounds to be heard are a gentle breeze through the pines and Donnie as he puts down his milk and opens what appears to be his 2nd Diet Pepsi of the day. It’s 8:30 in the morning.
“My dad was tough on me growing up. As you know, I’m named after the music legend Donnie Osmond. I’m supposed to be talented. I’m supposed to be great. As a kid though I really struggled to find what I was good at. We would play catch and all I would do was move my feet like really fast. It made no sense but I couldn’t help it. My dad would just look at me like, what is wrong with my son? I just couldn’t catch a ball. You know that scene in the Brady Bunch when Marcia gets the swollen nose from the football hitting her in the face? That was me, like all the time. I would just go up to my room and yell into my pillow, what the fetch?!”
He reaches for another diet Pepsi from his igloo cooler and then seemed to tear up a little.
“I just wanted to be good at something, something! I needed to know my calling. Here my dad is the Stake President, played wide receiver for BYU and his son, with every fiber of his being cannot catch a ball…any ball! Sure, I could jump all day on my trampoline and I could make a pretty decent casserole, but those aren’t sports and besides, all Mormons can do those things.”
“It wasn’t until my mission that I realized my calling. What the fetch! My FEET were my hands! That’s what I learned when I went to China. Maybe I couldn’t catch but I could jump! Darn it, I could jump! And when I would walk the streets of Chengdu I would see people double dutching everywhere. I thought to myself, really for the first time, I can do that! And I’ve been doing it ever since. When my companion Elder Michael and I would ride through the neighborhoods of Chengdu we would always talk about three things; jumping, the Utah Jazz and chicks. We also talked a lot about someone who quickly became a father figure to us, new Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. Whenever things would become hard for us we would always turn to each other and say “What would Jerry do?”
Even though it was only morning in Utah it was still very hot. Donnie was sporting a replica Jazz jersey and denim shorts. As he leaned over to pick up the bottle of Pepsi he knocked over I noticed he had removed the last name of “Eaton” from where a player’s last name would be on the back of his tank top and replaced it with a sharpie hand-written “Jerry” on the back. I quickly called Donnie “Little Jerry” to myself.
After sharing a couple of servings of homemade Green Jello, Donnie turned to me and with a different look in his young eyes. A look of inspiration, of purpose….of someone who found his calling.
“With the Salt Steppers we have an opportunity. An opportunity to reach all of the kids out there who didn’t think they could do it. Who didn’t think they were good at anything. And that’s our mission. We might not be on bikes. We might not be knocking on your door. But darn it, we are knocking on someone’s heart. Saying, hi, can I have a moment of your time…to jump with you?”
He hands me a glass of milk and I kindly turn it down. Mind if we share a Pepsi I say? He smiles, looks me straight in the eye and says, “without a shadow of a doubt.”