Monday, January 09, 2017

Eli Whitney And Basketball Practice

Our high school athletic teams at Westbury Christian School typically have a devotional for both players and coaches before games. Last week, I was honored to be asked to be the speaker before our varsity girls' squad took on the ladies from The Kinkaid School. My topic for the seven to ten minute talk was Baseball's First Billionaire but that's just a footnote to this story. After Coach Michael Williams introduced to the girls who already know me, I was ready to launch right in to the illustration which would hopefully motivate the Lady Wildcats to think........ and win! But as I took the floor, Emer asked me a question. Emer is a senior on our team and has signed to play in college for an SEC school. Her question was this:
"Coach Hawley, are you the one who keeps switching the water bottle lids?" Honestly, I had no idea what she was talking about. She indicated a container of six plastic bottles I fill up with ice water for our first period middle school practices. Half of the containers are Powerade and half are Gatorade. What she was referring to that some of the Powerade bottles were capped by orange Gatorade lids and vice versa. And it bothered her. I explained that I arrive at 6 AM or so and it makes no difference to me which bottle has which top. But it mattered to Emer. She even volunteered to fix them right then and there. I can't recall if she did or not but I do remember it was one of the funniest things I've heard in quite awhile!

The next day in my classes, I brought up Emer's observation and asked the kids how many would be similarly bothered. A number admitted they would be disturbed and most like Emer are of the female persuasion. The question gave me a chance to point out the concept of interchangeable parts, popularized by Eli Whitney, he of cotton gin fame. I gave several examples of how interchangeable parts has made our lives easier; a product does not have to be discarded due to one part breaking. Batteries universally fit gadgets and plugs universally fit into sockets. And bottle lids fit the bottles they were not made for, even if they don't look alike. So after mentally tallying the results of my query, I find Emer has company with her line of thinking but I have more. She's just going to have to follow me around at practice!

You know, I love Whitney's concept in the world of conveniences and travel and household goods- it just helps make our lives less complicated. But it doesn't ring true in the kingdom of heaven. We don't all have the same talents and gifts and one of us simply can't be plugged in the absence of another. I hope this doesn't sound offensive but I tell people one reason I never miss school is that no one can teach my class for me. Some one might stand by my podium and read out the assignment but they can't do my job. If they can, what's the purpose of my holding that position? I hope other educators share my view which I don't believe is arrogant but vital in the way we see as ourselves as mentors and guides. In 1st Corinthians 12, Paul taught the body has many parts and they don't have the same function. All have value but they are unique. An eye is not a hand and can't tie a shoe or cut a piece of steak with a knife. It can, however, let light into our being and give us access to the visual world. And yet the eye and hand, of which there are two apiece, must work together for the good of the whole. You can't rub your eyes with your elbow and you can't look at your painted fingernails with your ears. Bottle lids can change with the whims of the user. We, one the other hand, are made in the image of God who didn't include spare parts in our design. He did, though, give us wonderful mental capacity, like Emer's, which allows us to ask questions and ponder the meaning of the deepest thoughts, even if  Gatorade lids had never crossed my mind before last week. Believe me, they will now.

Applicable quote of the day:

 Jean Giraudoux

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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