Friday, November 09, 2007

1927-2007 A life beyond its years

My life has been painted deep, rich colors by people who were deeply rich and colorful. Though I loved each of them dearly as they played in my day to day, surely I had no idea what a profound impact they would play in my forevermore. These were people who had more to offer me than could be dispensed during a lecture, or assessed with an exam. These folks offered wisdom, experience, love, encouragement, discernment, and friendship. The receiving could only be assessed by a generation who would in turn, be offered what I’d been given.

I believe that usually we have no idea how we’ve been formed, shaped, and influenced by people in our lives. Sometimes, perhaps we get little realizations or even epiphanies as to specific moments and people and how they shaped us.
Only a few short years ago, through interaction and relationships and books, I had an extended period of discovery and realization concerning myself, who I was, who I was becoming. During that time, I was astounded at realizing how a few specific moments and a few important people shaped how I think, process, love, understand, and filter the world around me.
One such man was my high school basketball coach, Lewis Ball. His words and encouragement rang in my ears all those years later as I began to understand how true they were, and learned to understand on a new level. Coach Ball was a man who was invested in our lives. To him, the context of our interaction with him was secondary to the interaction. Basketball retained it’s proper place, and was not allowed to be more than it was intended to be, but was used as a microcosm context of the lessons he had to teach us.
I have scores of specific encouraging remarks and conversations from Coach Ball stored in my memory. And the profundity of wisdom offered is that it encourages not only in a specific time of need, but it teaches a broader understanding of reality and widens our scope of perception.
I remember one basketball game in which we eeked out a win by the skin of our teeth. Late in the game, I got an offensive rebound and shot - and missed – several times before I finally landed a two-foot lay-up. I was embarrassed, and defeated by my several missed two-foot shots. When Coach Ball came to me after the game to tell me he was proud of me, I was not afraid to accuse him of empty praise in the face of my embarrassing performance. He was not afraid to point out my narrow understanding of my role. He asked me if I had any idea how many baskets I’d cost the other team by absolutely dominating their boards throughout the game. He made me better understand that though I might have wanted to be a high scorer, the real objective in basketball was to keep the other team from scoring more than we did. I’d accomplished that by ensuring they got no second-chance shots.
There are many of these moments I remember from this particular man. All of us, through several generations, were made to feel like his single most favorite person. He saw potential where no one else might have because his understanding of success was not dependent upon a narrow set of expectations. He understood the concept of community and teamwork, and no feet were expected to perform as hands.

I refuse to be a dispenser of information. I will not be a disseminator of answers without questions. I will not disrespect what I've been given by passing it on as soundbites and bullet points and fill in the blanks. I have all the time in the world for anyone who would like to walk with me and discover with me and allow questions to arise for which there are no easy answers or perhaps no answers at all.
Perhaps one day, someone will realize how completely satisfying his life has been. Perhaps he will be thankful for a realization that he made years ago that completely painted the filter through which he interpreted his day to day and his end purpose. He will probably have no idea what all came together in his life to accomplish this in him.
I pray to God that I will be one of those secret tools that are used to shape, prepare, strengthen, encourage and empower him.