Tasting Life Twice

Archive for the category “Stories Worth a Pint”

The ‘Mad Dash Home’ of a Childhood Dream: a St. Louis Cardinals Story

In 1951, a twelve-year-old boy from a small town in north central Kansas wrote a letter to Enos Slaughter asking the Cardinal great for some advice on playing the game of baseball and also asking Mr. Slaughter if he had some suggestions on becoming a Cardinal bat boy. Slaughter took the time to send the young boy a hand-written letter, signing it “your friend.” In the letter, which was published on the front page of the Belleville Telescope (Belleville, Kansas), January 24, 1952, Slaughter offered advice on how to play the great American game and also expressed his wish that he could help his new pen pal become a bat boy for the Cardinals.

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That boy was my father. In the letter, Slaughter tells my dad, Eddie Tamerius, to “play ball, hard and honest” and “don’t swing at balls, too far over your head.” He also says, “Don’t be afraid to take that 1,000 to one chance for a base! The other fellow with the ball may hesitate just long enough, wondering what you’re going to do!” In 1951, that advice from Slaughter – to take a chance for the extra base – would have conjured up the cherished memory of Slaughter’s late game heroics only five years earlier in a play still recognized as one of the top ones in World Series history. In the eighth inning of the seventh game of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, with the score tied at 3-3, “Country” Slaughter (as he was nicknamed) took off on a called hit-and-run with two outs. Slaughter scored from first base on a double to left-center, as Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky hesitated in throwing the relay to the catcher. In what is remembered as the “Mad Dash Home”, Slaughter scored the decisive run as the Cardinals claimed their sixth league title.

My father grew up on the great plains of Kansas in a family that, in and of itself, resembled a baseball team. There were nine children (one girl and eight boys) in the lineup and Dad was at the bottom of the birth order as the light-hitting rookie on the team. His father worked the Rock Island Railroad line and was a devoted Chicago Cubs fan. Dad’s loyalties, however, were clearly with the Cubs’ bitter rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. While Grandpa was away on the railroad, somewhere between Belleville and Topeka, Kansas, Dad would sit in the dining room listening through a Motorola tabletop radio as Harry Caray gave the play-by-play of the Cardinals games. The station signal came out of St. Joseph, Missouri and was strong enough for day games but would weaken considerably at night. Dad would listen through the AM static and on a piece of notebook paper, he would make a scorecard of the action he was hearing on the radio broadcast. (The family wouldn’t get their first television until 1953.)

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A few months ago, while preparing for my Uncle Dean’s funeral, I was searching the internet for obituaries. My objective was rather simple. I was trying to figure out the birth order of dad’s siblings. Nine children in one family is a lot to keep organized in your head. As I tried to sort through the “players” in the family lineup, my mental cogitations started to sound like an old Abbott & Costello routine. Let’s see. Who was first? Uncle Ernie? Or wait, was it Aunt Mildred? Ok, well if Aunt Mildred was on first, who was on second? And what’s on third?

While trying to answer these riddles I discovered that a lot of historic, small town newspapers have been archived in recent years and they can now be accessed online. In the course of my online browsing for obituaries, I came across a front page article about my dad’s correspondence with baseball Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. The headline said “Want It Hard, You’ll Get It, Local Youth Told.” I was shocked. Dad had never told us about the letter. We had been following the Cardinals for a lifetime. While growing up in Hannibal, Missouri, my father had taken the three of us boys to numerous games at Busch Stadium. We had heard countless other baseball stories as Dad shared his remembrances of Al Kaline’s defensive prowess in the Detroit Tigers outfield and his cannon of an arm, of Bob Gibson’s intimidating demeanor on the mound, of Curt Flood’s career with the Cardinals and legacy in baseball and of watching the New York Yankees while stationed at Staten Island with the United States Coast Guard.

But this one was new: a hand-written letter from a Hall of Fame player for for the St. Louis Cardinals! A lot of questions came to mind. Did Dad still have the letter among his personal keepsakes? Given that it was so long ago, did Dad even remember writing the letter? How exactly did Dad become a Cardinals fan, given that his dad was a Chicago Cubs fan? What led him to write Slaughter in the first place? And how did the story originally come to the attention of the Belleville Telescope back in 1952?

As curious as I was to ask Dad these questions, I also started to think about another set of questions. What if Dad’s childhood wish finally came true? What if he could be an honorary batboy with the Cardinals for one day? While not as cat-quick as he once was when he was a spry, energetic twelve-year-old boy playing junior league baseball in a small town on Highway 36, perhaps Dad could symbolically fulfill his childhood wish in some small way. For now, I’d leave some of the original questions unanswered to see if the Cardinals would help us make a memory.

http://retrosimba.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/charlie_james.jpg?w=500I first enlisted the help of Charlie James, a former Cardinals player who roamed the outfield for the Redbirds from 1959 – 1964 and played on the World Series championship team of 1964. Charlie is a board member at William Woods University (Fulton, Missouri) where I work and is as gracious a guy as you’ll ever meet. Whenever I have opportunity, I like to ask Charlie about the past. Charlie has a locker room full of stories from his playing days with the Missouri Tigers and later, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a teammate of Stan Musial and batted against Sandy Koufax (hitting two home runs off of the great Dodger lefty, including a grand slam in 1962). Charlie shared the outfield with Curt Flood before getting traded to the Cincinnati Reds to make room for some guy named Lou Brock.

Charlie made an outfield assist by directing me to Martin Coco, the Director of Ticket Sales and Marketing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Martin read the original article with interest and appreciation and agreed it was a great story. He then offered to help us connect some of the dots in Dad’s lifetime of following the Cardinals by surprising our father with a memorable evening.

On Monday, August 5, twenty-four of us went to Busch Stadium to watch the Cardinals face the Dodgers. Dad thought it was just another Cardinals game, like so many others we have enjoyed before. Six of us left the family picnic at the Gateway Arch, under the pretense of needing to get a few more tickets at the stadium. Dad accompanied the group, ready to open his wallet for any extra tickets we might need. We walked around the stadium until we arrived at the VIP/Press entrance.

Dad wondered why we going in this particular door, after having passed numerous ticket windows along the way. To Dad’s question about what we were up to, Troy only said, “Dad, you haven’t seen anything yet.” Upon the hospitable welcome by Martin, we finally shared the news with Dad. He’d have to change his shirt. We had a different one for him to wear, an authentic 1946 Enos Slaughter replica home jersey made by Mitchell and Ness as part of their Cooperstown Collection. Dad put on the No.9 jersey that Slaughter made famous so many years ago.

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Then we showed him a framed copy of the front page of the Belleville Telescope from January 24, 1952.

“Where in the world did you get this?” he asked.

“Dad, do you remember writing Enos Slaughter 62 years ago?”

Dad replied, “I certainly do. I had told my dad that I wanted to be a bat boy for the Cardinals and he encouraged me to write them. I don’t know if he thought they’d actually write me back. But they did.”

“Do you still have the letter?” we asked.

“I wish I could say that I did but Mom and Dad had a flood in the basement when I was away from home and we lost most of my personal keepsakes.”

“Well, I told Martin that you were still pretty nimble and quick and that you could probably shag some fly balls still. But we have some other things planned tonight.”

Then, Martin did his maestro magic and kindly rolled out the Red(bird) carpet for our group. He took us on the field where we watched the Cardinals and Dodgers take batting practice. We saw Mark McGwire’s return to Busch Stadium as the new batting instructor for the Dodgers. We also saw the Busch Stadium debut of Dodger rookie sensation Yasiel Puig who put on a power show in batting practice.

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The highlight, however, was Dad’s opportunity to meet Cardinal legend Red Schoendienst. A young 90 years of age, Red played for the Cardinals alongside of Slaughter. Red still comes to most of the home games, donning his own Cardinal uniform, with the striped socks pulled up high just as they were in his former playing days. No. 2 came over and visited with our group. We shared with him the story of Dad’s childhood dream 62 years ago.

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Dad mentioned how he grew up as a big fan of “Stan the Man, Enos Slaughter and Red”. Red shared with us some stories of playing with Enos Slaughter. “He was a great teammate and always played hard. He never took a play off.”

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I asked Red if the 100 percent wool authentic jersey that dad was wearing was authentic. He reached over to touch dad’s jersey, rubbed it between his fingers and said, “We did wear wool. But our jerseys were even heavier than that.” image

“We read this morning that your signing bonus back in 1942 was a ham sandwich and a glass of milk. That was a great story.”

“Well, yes, it’s a little bit different today”, Red told us.

“I guess the good news, though, is that the signing bonus of milk and ham probably explains why you are in still in such good shape today.”

“Well, I don’t know about that.” Red said while chuckling.

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After our conversation was over, we made a visit to the broadcast booth where Dad met longtime broadcaster Mike Shannon just before the start of the game. Both of them had graduated from high school in 1957. And both had gone on to the University of Missouri in Columbia. After talking a bit about Shannon’s playing days with the Tigers under legendary coach Frank Broyles, we left the radio booth for our seats, but not before Dad had a chance to study the day’s lineups in the KMOX booth.

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When the game finally started, dad did what he’s done for so many years now. In pencil, he marked the boxes of the scorecard in the endangered language of passionate baseball enthusiasts: K, BB, 1B, E4, HBP.

On this night, the Dodgers got the best of the Cardinals, winning the game 3-2 and extending their winning streak on the road to fifteen games. As nice as it would have been to drive back home to Columbia and Hannibal and Lexington` with a Redbird victory, this particular night was about something else. Our family was together and we were relishing a story sixty-two years in the making. On an unseasonably pleasant evening, we were in a sea of summer red among the best fans in baseball, celebrating the dreams of childhood, the glory of America’s national pastime and the proud tradition of the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1951, Enos Slaughter concluded his letter to my dad with a bit of advice: “no matter what you want in life, want it HARD and you’ll get it!” If Mr. Slaughter were still around, he’d be pleased to know that our dad has followed his advice. Since that letter, Dad has played out his years with honesty and hard work and a lot of smart decisions on the base path of life. “Country” Slaughter would be proud of Dad’s “mad dash home”.

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The Parable of the Fisherman and the Businessman

One of my students wrote a reflection on the following quotation from the Dalai Lama. Asked what surprises him most about humanity he said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived”.

Her paper got me thinking about a parable I have come across a few times in recent years.  I’m not sure what the original source is but one version is the following:

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An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American laughed and stood tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village, of course, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually to New York City, where you could run your expanded enterprise with proper management.

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, senor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years, 25 tops.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions senor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll in to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Inspiration and Courage

image A thirteen year old boy from California became the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest.  Jordan Romero

who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was 10 years old — said he was inspired by a painting in his school hallway of the seven continents’ highest summits.

"Every step I take is finally toward the biggest goal of my life, to stand on top of the world," Jordan said on his blog earlier.”

….The team planned to do something special for Jordan at the mountaintop but was keeping it a surprise even from him, Bailey said.

Jordan was carrying a number of good luck charms, including a pair of kangaroo testicles given to him by a friend who has cancer.

The Remarkable Doctor – Janusz Korczak

A few weeks ago, I took a group of students to Europe for a history of the Holocaust tour.  Our travelogue can be found at www.watw2010.wordpress.com  In the weeks to come, I will add some of my photographs and reflections of our trip to Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

In the Jewish Cemetery of Warsaw, Poland there is a memorial sculpture to Janusz Korczak.  He is shown holding a small child and leading a procession of other children behind him.  Dr. Korczak was a pediatrician and children’s author and a leading pedagogue.  He also oversaw an orphanage that was forced to relocate to the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, after the Nazis assumed control over the city.  In August of 1942, the Nazis came to deport the children and orphanage staff to the Treblinka extermination camp.  Dr. Korczak was offered sanctuary outside the Jewish ghetto but he refused.  He insisted that he accompany the children. He, along with the children and staff, died in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

Korzcak is remembered in The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman. 

One day, around 5th August, when I had taken a brief rest from work and was walking down Gęsia Street, I happened to see Janusz Korczak and his orphans leaving the ghetto. The evacuation of the Jewish orphanage run by Janusz Korczak had been ordered for that morning. The children were to have been taken away alone. He had the chance to save himself, and it was only with difficulty that he persuaded the Germans to take him too. He had spent long years of his life with children and now, on this last journey, he could not leave them alone. He wanted to ease things for them. He told the orphans they were going out in to the country, so image they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood. The little column was led by an SS man who loved children, as Germans do, even those he was about to see on their way into the next world. He took a special liking to a boy of twelve, a violinist who had his instrument under his arm. The SS man told him to go to the head of the procession of children and play – and so they set off. When I met them in Gęsia Street, the smiling children were singing in chorus, the little violinist was playing for them and Korczak was carrying two of the smallest infants, who were beaming too, and telling them some amusing story. I am sure that even in the gas chamber, as the Zyklon B gas was stifling childish throats and striking terror instead of hope into the orphans’ hearts, the Old Doctor must have whispered with one last effort, ‘it’s all right, children, it will be all right’. So that at least he could spare his little charges the fear of passing from life to death."

Goodness is Still Out There

clip_image002One of my students has a collection of letters from her mother. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. Most of us probably have some keepsake like that from a parent – birthday cards, a piece of jewelry, a meaningful gift. But what makes this present so special is that Stephanie’s mother died back in 1999, and yet, every year, she still gets a birthday card from her mother.

Andrea, her mother, had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) a few years earlier and knew that she was running out of time. Reminiscent of the movie My Life and years before the movie P.S. I Love You, she set down to write letters to her children – Stephanie, Nikki and Steven – who were 6, 4 and 2 at the time of diagnosis. While fighting against a degenerative illness, and often in great weakness, a loving mother committed to the project of writing these notes that would survive her death.

Andrea gave the letters to a friend and fellow flight attendant, Tammy Wright. After Andrea’s death, Tammy faithfully has kept these letters and passed them on at the appropriate time. Stephanie, Nikki and Steven receive a message from their mom on birthdays and at graduation. They will continue to hear her voice on other special milestones, such as when they marry or have a child. And for years to come, at each decade’s passing, an inspiring mother will still be encouraging her children to remain strong and live well.

Stephanie shared with me her most recent letter from her mother and gave me permission to share it with you. The story is a beautiful tribute to a mother’s love for her children and to her grace and courage in the face of weakness and loss.

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You’re in your twenties! Hooray, the teen years are fini! (Not that you’re out of the woods yet!) I’m wishing you sunshine, roses, and love!

I was pondering what to write in this note, and decided to tell you of several ‘random acts of kindness’ that I’ve been the recipient of since my illness. I choose this subject both because we often are unaware of the depth of human empathy and in tribute to those folks who engaged in the acts.

One occurred at Bell Helicopter. A dozen roses were delivered to my office. The card bore the name of no one I knew. After investigating, I learned they were from a fellow employee, a black woman I had never met. I took one of the roses to her as thanks. She told me she had seen me and was impressed with my attitude and strength and wanted to do something for me, so she sent roses. I was touched.

Another occurred when I discovered the business card of a jeweler I had briefly met a couple of years earlier at the Mt. Sunapee Crafts Fair. I bought 3 pairs of earrings there – unidentical, eg. rake and leaves, etc. – and told her how creative they were and that she should do more children-related ones. After finding her card, I had Noni call her for a catalog, and the woman remembered me! 2 days later I received the catalog w/a notation to take 25% off, a lovely, warm letter, and a beautiful pair of earrings w/3 pearl eggs in a nest on one, and 3 hatched baby birds on the other. They weren’t in the catalog and she knew from Noni I had 3 children and was ills, so I suspect she made them especially for me. It brought tears to my eyes!

So, goodness is out there!

With love, Mom

The Civil Rights Movement

Last week our campus hosted Reverend Billy Kyles of Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis.  He spoke with our students about the Civil Rights Movement and the legacy of Martin Luther King.  Here’s an excerpt from his talk in chapel. 

The Greatest Game I Ever Saw – Steroids or Not

Yesterday, Mark McGwire finally came clean and confessed to using steroids during the 90s.  The return of McGwire to the news, after years of being out of the spotlight, has reminded me of the greatest game I ever saw.

In the summer of 1998, I was fortunate enough to watch McGwire hit home run #62, the line-drive shot that broke Roger Maris’ previous record for home runs in a season.  As Tom Verducci wrote for Sports Illustrated that summer:

The home run is America—appealing to its roots of rugged individualism and its fascination with grand scale. Americans gape at McGwire’s blasts the same way they do at Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam and the Empire State Building. "We have," Cubs manager Jim Riggelman said before Tuesday’s game, "a fascination with power."

That summer was magical.  McGwire was on a torrid pace to break one of sports’ most coveted records and one of the longest standing ones.  In the second half of the baseball season, we spent every summer night rushing to the television when McGwire came up to bat.  If we were barbequing, we went inside.  If out to dinner, we joined the rest of the patrons to catch what was going on.  Regular scheduled programs were interrupted for a live look-in on the individual at-bats of McGwire and Sammy Sosa.image

Tickets became increasingly harder to come by as fans were flocking to the stadium in the hopes of catching a piece of history. 

My wife at the time, Kris, knew how much I wanted to see a game at Busch Stadium and one day she called me and said, “Hey, I want to do something for your birthday.  Can you be free Sunday night or Tuesday night?” 

I told her I wouldn’t likely be free on Sunday evening and then she said, “Well, I might as well just tell you, I’m here at Schnucks and I’m trying to get two tickets for us to see a Cardinals game.”

“Kris, that would be awesome but I’m pretty sure they’re all sold out.”

“Well, the lady here says she can get us two seats but the only catch is that she doesn’t have two seats side-by-side.  She has individual seats but the seats are one row in front of the other.”

Through the phone, I could hear the Schnucks’ customer service representative say, “Now honey, I can’t promise you these tickets will be here in the next few minutes.  They’re going fast.”

I told Kris, “By all means, grab them.”  And so she did.  We had tickets for a game the following week, on Tuesday, September 8, 1998 against the Chicago Cubs.  Friends of ours had tickets the day before, a game in which Big Mac hit the record-tying home run in the first inning.  I nervously watched the rest of the game hoping that he wouldn’t hit it number 62.  Fortunately, he only got one that afternoon.

The following day Kris and I made our way to St. Louis.  When we were on the Metro Rail, the conductor said, “Mark my word, folks, today Big Mac will hit #62”.  The atmosphere outside the stadium was electric.  We found out that tickets were selling for $400.  Kris was tempted to sell hers and I told her if she did, I’d meet her after the game! 

We got to our seats and we were near the left-field foul pole.  There were nine-seats in our rows, and Kris and I had the middle seat in both.  The guy next to me said, “Now, I don’t normally do this but if Big Mac breaks the record tonight don’t be surprised if I give you a hug.  We’re all family tonight.”

There was a buzz in the air when the game started.  The Cardinals were playing their hated rivals, the Cubbies from Chicago, with people all over the world watching the game. Roger Maris’ family was at the game, seated near the Cardinals dugout.  Flash bulbs were going off every time McGwire came up to bat. 

In the bottom of the 4th inning, McGwire turned on a first-pitch fastball from Steve Traschel and sent it just over the left field wall, right below where we were seated.  The record home run was his shortest shot of the year, traveling 341 feet.  Pandemonium ensued.  While McGwire circled the bases, people were jumping up and down.  Strangers hugged and high-fived each other.  They stopped play for around ten minutes or so and I ran out to the concourse to snatch up a few souvenirs from the vendors.  Baseballs marked, “I Was There” were selling for $20.   After the game, Commissioner Bud Selig was on hand to honor the historic achievement.  When we left the stadium, commemorative editions of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were already for sale. (That night also happened to be the first major league game of J.D. Drew, who now plays for the Boston Red Sox.  He came into left field and had his first two at-bats that evening.) We stayed in St. Louis late into the night to take in the celebration before eventually returning to Columbia.

I couldn’t imagine a better birthday present for a sports fan, especially one who had cheered for the Cardinals since childhood.  I told Kris it would be equivalent to getting her much coveted tickets to see Mikhail Baryshnikov perform live in some fantastic venue. 

It was an unforgettable night in the history of sports.

Not Your Average Technician

A TV technician came by the house this morning to do some work and his accent jumpstarted an interesting conversation.  I asked him where he was from and he said, “Columbia” and then laughed.

“How about before that?  Ireland?”

“Further south in the hemisphere.”

“South Africa?”

“You got it.” 

He went on to describe an interesting life.  He was born in 1969 and his family moved from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to South Africa in 1973.  Later, as an adult, he worked as a commercial diver mining diamonds in various places along the eastern coast of Africa until he contracted cerebral malaria.  For two years he was hospitalized, almost dying on three separate occasions.  After getting better, he decided to spend some time traveling the world and he moved to Israel where he made clay pots as a craftsman.  When things got more dicey in the Middle East (“I decided it was their war, not mine.  I mean, I’m not Jewish.  I learned the language and became fluent but I had already had enough of that already.” He then took a job in Santa Cruz, California where he worked at a home for developmentally disabled adults.  It was there he met and married a girl who was on assignment for AmeriCorps.  (“Our live-in situation meant that we were were working 7 1/2 days a week and 50 hours a day, which meant there was never any privacy.” 

He and his bride and their young son decided a change was in order, so they moved to the Midwest so his wife could go to med school. 

I asked him if he would still be a commercial diver had he not contracted malaria. 

“No, I’d be retired by now, like all my buddies but I had to empty my banking account to pay two years of  hospital bills.  I went back to South Africa in 2005 and closed off that part of my life.  I sold my house and my toys and my Land Rover.”

He described the diamond trade and how they had trained guerilla fighters who provided security  for them when they brought up the diamonds from the water.  They would begin at 6 am and often, their work wasn’t done until 1 am the following day.  They would sort the gravel for karats and what they found would be sold in the UK or in Israel “rather than to the de Beers who were control freaks”. 

Playing the Part of Those Who Forgive

Recently, I came across this beautiful story in a book by Thomas Long.  The author writes:

A minister friend of mine in Atlanta at a downtown church planned one evening to go out to eat with his wife to celebrate their anniversary. His wife met him at the church, and the two of them headed out to the parking lot to take the car to the restaurant. But when they got outside they encountered a crisis. An elderly woman, a desperate look on her face, was kneeling on the sidewalk beside a man, her husband as it turns out, who was lying on his back in pain clutching his chest. My friend’s wife ran quickly back into the church to call an ambulance, and my friend leaned over to comfort the man. “We have called for some help and they will be here soon…”, he began, but the man interrupted him.

“Charlie, forgive me,” the man said.

“I’m not Charlie,” my friend said. “My name is Sam.” What Sam did not know until later is that Charlie was the man’s son, and years before, the man had, in rage over something, disowned Charlie, and the two had not spoken in years.

The man looked up at Sam and reached out and touched his hand, “Charlie, please forgive me.”

“Just relax,” Sam said. “Somebody will be here soon to get you to the hospital.”

But the man suddenly clutched in terrible pain, and it was now clear that he would not make it to the hospital. With his last gasping energy he pulled on Sam’s arm and begged. “Charlie, please forgive me.”

Sam followed his faithful instinct, reached out and put his hand on the man’s forehead as a blessing and said, “I do forgive you. I do forgive you.” Those were the last words the mans ever heard in this life.

How to Draw God

Last week I was walking across campus with a friend and colleague, Terry Martin who teaches art at William Woods University.  Terry was telling me a fascinating story about a autistic girl in one of his past art classes.  Young Katherine had sketched a spiral pattern on paper and when Terry asked her to talk about it, she said it was a picture of God.  The point in the center of the page meant that God is the smallest of all things.  The spiraling line extending off the page meant that God is bigger than all things. 

The child’s insights are profound.  For as long as people have thought about these things, they have used spatial metaphors to stress both God’s transcendence and God’s immanence.  God is the great, mysterious “Other”, the Holy One who is high above the heavens, “in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.”  God is more than our eyes can behold and unlike anything else we can know or experience.  And yet, and yet….God is near to us.  He is present and in the neighborhood. The God who is big enough to fill all in all is all big enough to become small.  Taken together, the insights suggest that God is both without and within and that faith needs both a telescope and a microscope.  Now, how do you draw that? 

Follow the lead of a little girl.  When Terry told me this story, a flurry of biblical texts came to mind.  Isaiah, the Hebrew prophet said so long ago, a “little child shall lead them.”  Jesus reminded us centuries later, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” and “out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.” 

Or take Picasso who is reported to have said, “"It took me four years to paint like Raphael; it took me a lifetime to learn to paint like a child."

The original sketch is long since gone but I encouraged Terry to paint a piece in tribute to the little girl.  Here is Terry’s artwork and what follows is the story in his own words.

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