Friday, December 03, 2010

The List

My dream when I was ten years old was to play major league baseball. I wasn’t alone. At least a gazillion others had the same dream.  And the first step to the majors for just about all of us was to make a Little League team.

It was a big deal to play Little League in the town I grew up in. A real big deal. We had a beautiful Little League park. Grass infield. Well maintained. And we had tryouts.  I grew up in a time when not every kid made a team.  You got cut and had to live with it.  Whether that was a good or not is debatable.  At the time it wasn’t argued with.

So it came time for the first of the tryouts. This determined whether or not you were even good enough to try out for a team.  Like I said …a bit more of a cutthroat system.  I tried out.

About a week later I asked Mr. Parenteau who’s Little League team practiced near my home if I was ‘on his list’.  After all, he had seen me play many times.  I practiced with his team every once in awhile when they needed an extra body.  But he was pretty evasive when I asked him and he mumbled something about thinking that the Red Sox had gotten me.  That got my hopes up.  And so I waited for the call from the Red Sox.  No call.

Being pretty resourceful, I found out where the Red Sox were having their tryout, got on my bike, and rode to the other side of town and walked onto the Red Sox practice field.  Except there was a problem.  I wasn’t on their list.  And I remember saying to the coach …" I’ve got to be. Mr. Parenteau told me I was." He shook his head and said “Nope, not here. No Mike Murphy on the list.” 

And all of a sudden I realized something. I hadn’t even passed the first tryout.  No team wanted to take a second look at me. I was never going to make it to the big leagues if I couldn’t make Little League. I had big hopes but nowhere to channel them. And then the Red Sox coach through me a lifeline, saying to me.  “Here’s what I’ll do.  I’ll check with the league. “ In other words we’ll scour the reject pile so I’ll know what to tell you the next time I see you which will probably will be never.  “But since you’re here …why don’t you join everybody else just for tonite.  Can’t promise anything beyond that.  The truth is  I can only take 12 players and I’ve got ten returning and there’s 30 players here trying out for two spots. And everyone else is on my list.”

Basically, he offered me a random act of kindness.  Man, I threw myself into that tryout. 

After the first night he came up to me, shaking his head and told me to come back for a second tryout.  He actually cut some guys that night.  I came back the next night.  I made the second cut.  I asked him if he had worked out everything with the league. “Was I on the list?  Was it OK that I was still playing?”  And he just kind of waved me away.

On the last night, after a long workout, he gathered the remaining six of us together and said.  I only have two spots.  I can’t take all of you.  If you don’t  make it I hope you try out next year.  And then he looked at me, shook his head and said “Murph, you made it. Unbelievable. You’re a Red Sox. Go grab a uniform." I can’t tell you how excited I was.  I wasn’t even supposed to be there.  And I made the team. I made a list.

We’ve all had experiences, I’m sure where, our hopes and dreams and our fears and nightmares seem to both collide and coexist..  I’m assuming that all of us know what it’s like to hold these seemingly competing realities in our hands. That tryout was one of those places for me. I thought I was good enough. Everyone else thought I was a reject or at least didn’t think I was good enough to be on the list. .  I don’t know if I was stupid or determined or both.  But I leaned into my hopes and dreams while facing my worst fears and doubts.  It was a good life lesson.  This time it worked out well. Sometimes it doesn’t. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not a wise strategy.

Author Kathleen Norris tells us that the Incarnation is where hope contends with fear. She’s right.  The Christmas carol says it well.  “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

How does hope win out?  It wins out when we lean into our doubts and fears, not trying to run from them.  It wins when we trust that a good God is for us, not against us. Hope wins when we put our life into motion instead of allowing fear to trap us in the paralysis of analysis.   It wins when we respond to the invitation of the Incarnation …to accept the gift of life and to do something with it.

Hope wins even though it looks as it it's defeated.  For hope wells up inside of us.  It is the power of God reminding us of that which is not yet but is still to come.  Hope uses even cruel circumstance to help renew our faith.  Hope is like a little child who believes there is room for one more name on the list. Hope is kindled by a kind coach, willing to break a rule, to make room for possibility. 

1 comment:

Deirdre said...

I love this!