Leader's Insight: Dodger Heaven
From my journal: For most of my life, my father and I have struggled to connect with each other. We are very different men, and our differences have grown during the passage of the years. Nevertheless, there were occasional exceptions to this distancing, and I think I remember almost everyone of them. They were the events when, for a short while, there was—between him and me—a sense of sublime closeness.
One of the more memorable of those moments came when I was a second grader at P.S. (Public School) 33 in New York. On a spring day shortly before lunch hour, my father came to the door of my classroom. After a brief word with the teacher he gestured for me to join him. "Son," he said, "clean off your desk and come with me." Soon after, we were walking down the hallway and out the front door of the school.
Only when we reached the privacy of his car did my father speak again and disclose his real purpose in taking me out of school. "I thought you'd like to go to the ball game with me today," he said. Sixty years later I can still see his mischievous grin as he disclosed this wonderful plan.
Muse on this! You're seven or eight years old. It's the middle of a school day, and your father springs you from school to see a baseball game.
Ninety or so minutes later, my father and I, hotdogs and crackerjacks in hand, were in our seats along the third-base line at old Ebbits Field in Brooklyn where Jackie Robinson, just feet away, was warming up to play one of his first games as a Brooklyn Dodger. Does this smell like Heaven?
Somewhere in the early innings of the game, a batter, the New York Giants' Johnny Mize, hit a towering foul ball. An instant replay deep in my memory recalls the trajectory of that ball going almost straight up, losing its momentum and beginning its descent … right over my seat. Down and down and down it came. Then, when it was close enough for me to see the stitching on the ball, a hand (my father's hand!) reached out and snatched it from the air.
In one of my young life's über-glorious experiences, my father handed the ball to me. Given my age, the keys to a brand new Mustang convertible could not have been a better gift. I was filled with abounding love and admiration for him.
"Where is the Life we have lost in living?" T.S. Eliot once asked. It is quite possible that Eliot had far more ponderous notions in mind when he wrote those words that contrasted Life and living. But for me anyway, that afternoon spent with my father at Ebbits Field fell distinctly into the Living category.
As have many more moments of joy and wonder and love and contentment. My first kiss (not with my mother) comes to mind. So does winning a championship race. And so does the moment I decided to organize my life around Jesus.
How about the night a very special woman said yes to my proposal of marriage? And the first times I held our newborn son and, later, our daughter in my arms. Then there was the day I was informed that a church actually wanted me to be its pastor. And the occasions on which I have introduced people to Jesus. And the evening a few weeks ago when I took my oldest granddaughter out to dinner and heard her say over dessert, "I sure love talking with you, Papa."