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Monday, April 4, 2011

On patience in a strange world.

This weekend I seemed to either be at church (3 services) or at the baseball diamond (4 games). The weather was warmer and we did not suffer through the the misery of the previous weekend (cold, wet and lots of losses). There was something that happened which did set my mind to pondering.

My son, by virtue of his momma's genes, is a pretty good player. The last two years he was the cleanup hitter and regularly blasted the ball. This year he is on a new team and he has struggled some. He finally began ripping the ball again, but each time it seems to be right at some one. He finally had a couple of good games and the joy was apparent. He is feeling more like himself. In one of the games Saturday he hit a hard line drive which the center fielder made a fine running catch on. His next at bat he hit a flair into center field which dropped in safely, scoring what would prove to be the winning run. After the game, he came strolling up to me with his trademark grin. "I smash the ball and it is out, I get a crummy hit and it falls in!"
Yes, my son, baseball is that way, and so is life!

In hitting there are three key elements. The first is how you swing the bat. There is endless practice and each boy has received many hours of coaching. There are numerous components including balance, swing mechanics and watching the ball. Timing the swing is also vital as well as actually swinging at the ball. This leads to the second element. The pitcher is throwing the ball with the intention of keeping you from hitting it. He throws it hard sometimes and soft at others. He may toss a curve. He tries to throw the ball to places where it is hard to make good contact. A good pitch can neutralize the best swing. This leads to the third element, the umpire. His job is determine if the pitches you don't swing at are balls or strikes. Sometimes the calls he makes helps the batter, other times the pitcher. The umpire is the subjective element which neither player can control.

In life, we can work hard. We can study and practice and hone our skills. We can make every effort to be the best we can be. It is possible that we can reach a level of expertise where we really do things right. Even so, there are times where others are doing their level best to keep us from achieving our goals. There is objective reality making its presence known. Perhaps a natural disaster wipes us out, or maybe a minor mishap. Sometimes the power goes out, or a plane is late, or there's a change in the market place... We cannot prepare for everything and even if we do try real hard, sometimes circumstances prevail. Lastly, there are other people making decisions. Perhaps their perspective is different from ours, but they are in a position of authority. Sometimes the "umpire" blows the call. Whatever the case, all of us live in a world where other people can and do make decisions which negatively impact us.

If you live long enough, you will have had many experiences where you did everything right but it didn't work out. You have also seen times where you got lucky and walked away from a situation knowing full well that you got better than you deserved. Baseball teaches us that you have to play lots of games for things to balance out. We do not always get what we deserve in baseball or life. Sometimes we are lucky, whether the luck is good or bad. I think that in life, like baseball, it is important to remember the importance of the team. If we work together with a good group of folks then we have more hope that we will succeed. It is also important to maintain a good attitude. You cannot get too excited about success and assume it will always come easy. You cannot get too depressed in the face of failure and spend time blaming everyone and everything else. You simply need to recognize that in the end, things do balance out.

I am not particularly good at this. I get frustrated and upset, excited and jubilant. I am an emotional person, so I try to keep my emotions in line. In baseball you win some and you lose some. In life it is the same. But the one thing I never forget is this is my son. I need to be there to watch, to celebrate his victories, to give comfort in his defeats, and to sometimes drive quietly after a long night and just thank God for the gift of a son. We need to be patient as we face our challenges and frustrations. We also need to be greatful. We need to learn to enjoy the game, be it baseball or life!

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