Three weeks ago, I went to see Gayle and Grace. I've seen her off and on in recent months but I had not seen him since last summer. They were wonderful friends of my parents but that doesn't quite cover it. I met them when I was only four and grew up with their four daughters in a small town in Nebraska. Gayle persuaded my folks to move to Texas while I was in college. Many of their relatives, both by blood and marriage, were influential in my life and remain so. In fact, when I moved to Georgia for my first teaching and coaching job, their brother in law hired me and I lived in the house belonging to Grace's mom. I could go on but you get the picture. One thing I reminded them of during my visit was that the first piece of athletic apparel I ever owned came from Gayle. When I was little, I became interested in basketball for two reasons. One was my older brother, Dave, who loved it- the first basketball we owned was, and I am not kidding you, green. The second was that our dad took Dave and me to all the York College home basketball games even before I started kindergarten. I'm pretty sure we got in free and the ancient gym was only a block away. It was the most exciting thing in my life and that rickety facility, almost like a cathedral in my mind, might as well have been the Boston Gardens to the little boy who would end up being me.
That brings me back to Gayle. When I was about five, he gave me his college basketball jersey. He had played at David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tennessee though I never once heard him speak of his career on the court. I remember it was purple but I don't know what happened to it. I also have no idea why he gave it to me and neither Gayle or Grace recall the gift. But I do and that's what matters to me. Things matter to small children in ways that probably escape us when we emerge into adulthood. I grew up to play high school basketball and even collegiately for those same York College Panthers I had idolized in kindergarten. After I started my coaching journey, I worked basketball camps for fifteen summers on the same Lipscomb campus where Gayle had played as a Bison. And now, Gayle and Grace live several blocks from me in Houston. Somehow, it all seems cyclical as I look back over the decades.
In retrospect, I can't say the small act of kindness involving the uniform propelled my lifelong passion for basketball but then again, I can't say it didn't. Life is so nuanced with choices and tugs and nudges that to separate them into absolutes is meaningless. What is not meaningless is the importance of our demeanor towards children. While we don't all go through identical stages of development, we all desire and require affirmation and gentleness, traits sorely lacking in a world of angry adults. God brought each of us into His world the same way, simply under different circumstances. I find it fascinating that Gayle and Grace don't remember a memory I treasure. My guess is many people in Nazareth were kind to the younger Jesus, never knowing they were in a sense serving God incarnate. Generous people keep no record of their generosity. It's simply how they choose to live their lives and those in their paths, especially little ones, are inevitably blessed. Like me.
Applicable quote of the day:
As long as you put on a jersey, no matter what kind of jersey it is, as long as you're supporting the game of basketball, I enjoy it.
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