Many years ago when my kids were still in school, I attended a softball game in which my daughter was playing second base. I’m thinking she must have been in sixth grade or so. There were only a few stalwart parents in attendance standing off the first base line. I noticed one father in particular from the opposing team because of his jerky agitation walking up and down the base line. His daughter was also playing second base, and he shouted regular instructions to her.
At one point the play came to her, and she flubbed the out, which prompted her father to scream out, “My God, you are such an idiot player! That should be your name, Idiot Player!” The game came to end quickly then but not before the coach went over and had a little chat with Dad, who clearly would have none of it and told the coach where she could get off…
Several things impressed me about this little exchange. One, that Dad was there at all, and, two, that if he took the time to come, why did he spend it in such a hateful manner? Interesting and troubling. Later, as the girls were leaving, I heard one of her teammates call out, “Idiot Player who lost the game!” I wondered if the name stuck.
At that time, I remember thinking I had just witnessed something important, not to be missed or forgotten, not that it was so very large. I guess I was ready for the lesson at that moment, because it was as though a window opened on a universal human tragedy.
Intuitively you know about this tragedy. You know how people can be trained from the time they are powerless little new persons to doubt their essential worth. And how, in turn, their own resulting fragile egos and insecurities lead them to prop themselves up by putting others down in myriad ways, from the exquisitely subtle, to the blatantly abusive.
We often participate in this universal conspiracy unwittingly, foolishly, without so much as a nanosecond of reflection – shoring up our own egos by tearing down others. This fuels the struggle between races and classes and religions, between women and men, and, as in the homely vignette I witnessed, even between parents and children – maybe most especially between parents and children. These tendencies are so ingrained, we’re often unconscious of our own complicity in the tragedy.
At the risk of sounding naive, the antidote is love. Not the sloshy sentimental kind but the to-the-death kind modeled by the man Bethlehem’s child became. The kind of love that invites courage, resolve and resilience and a willingness to go the distance in self-discovery and recovery—bravely choosing to walk as children of light as our scriptures phrase it.
At the start of a new year, it’s good to reaffirm the foundation under our feet, remembering who we are and whose we are. Reminds me of the meal I had with friends and family on New Year’s Eve when we all took hands around the table, including the hands of my 19-month-old granddaughter (another second baseman?), and we all said aloud, “Gratitude abounds. Thanks be to God!” She liked it so much she didn’t want to let go, insisting we say it again…
Very glad to be sharing 2017 with you.