Choices

 

During a high school boy’s lacrosse game in May, 2019, Lance Fenderson of Davidson Day School in N.C. found himself between his team’s goal and an opponent. Fenderson, according to the Charlotte Observer, “held his ground” but just before impact he lowered his head. His neck was broken in three places, and he is paralyzed from the neck down. Ten months later his parents are suing his coach, the athletic trainer of the opposing school, and the player who collided with their son. The other player is charged with a count of willful and wanton conduct. One of the charges against Fenderson’s coach is that he failed to match their son with a similarly sized opponent.

The mentioned charges are just a few of many by the Fendersons, but what I find most interesting is that they are suing the other player for “willful and wanton conduct” as if he meant to break their son’s neck in three places. They allege that “Instead of turning to avoid Lance, (he) lowered his shoulder, accelerated…driving Lance’s (lowered) head into  the base of his neck” When they allowed their son to play boy’s lacrosse did they not know that it is a contact sport? Did they never ask why he wore shoulder pads, a helmet, and more gear? Had they never seen a game and witnessed contact between players? Players in boy’s lacrosse collide and that leads to unfortunate consequences at times. But to charge that player with “willful and wanton conduct” seems unreasonable. They say that the opposing player and his teammates celebrated while their son fell to the ground. That may be true, but players do celebrate, and I suspect that their son had cheered on the field as well. That complaint by the Fenderson’s makes the accusation that the player was celebrating the severe injury their son suffered. I doubt that.

The parents also sue the coach for not teaching his players to keep their heads up during contact and for not “matching Fenderson with a similarly sized …player or properly substitute, leaving Fenderson exhausted and more susceptible to injury.” Perhaps Fenderson’s parents are not aware that lacrosse is a fast game and unlike wrestling, players are not “matched up” but will find themselves facing opponents of various sizes. Perhaps their son was tired, but no coach I know or ever knew keeps overly tired players on the field because if they are that exhausted, they are not playing well so they are substituted for.

Having lived in a wheelchair for twenty years, I have a sense of what Lance Fenderson and his family will experience. However, he is the one who “held his ground” and “lowered his head.” Those two acts make Lance Fenderson responsible for the unfortunate injury he has suffered, and not the opposing player or his coach.

Adults teach that choices have consequences. Lance Fenderson’s parents made a choice when they allowed their son his choice to play lacrosse. He played the game, they most likely watched him play, supporting him in his choice. In a game last May, he chose to hold his ground as an opponent ran toward him, and he lowered his head. The choices of the Fenderson family led to Lance’s injury. Now they live with them.

Just a Pale, Blue Dot

 

Every few days, a new photograph appears on my computer sent by some server I signed with years ago. As far as I know, the service is free, and I do enjoy looking at the stunning photographs of the natural world—I decline ones of cities. The photographs of mountains, lakes, shorelines, all the usual natural views are terrific. Sometimes people are present in them, but they are secondary to the magnificent scenery. I enjoy guessing the location of the photos and have come to understand that there is, at times, little difference between a mountain view in the United Kingdom to one in France. Over the years I have realized that our world is not that different from one location to another. Now, I appreciate that The Sarah Desert and Death Valley are two different deserts with their own ecology, but even the differences do not discount how much alike our earth is in its varied locations. A field of wildflowers in Germany often resemble one in America. It seems that we are, in the natural world at least, more alike than different.

Thirty years ago, February 14, 1990, NASA engineers turned the cameras of Voyager I toward our solar system just as it was to exit it on its way to explore other solar systems.  Voyager I was 3.7 billion miles from our sun when its cameras took sixty photographs of our solar system and one picture became known as the Pale Blue Dot because of a pixel sized dot sitting in a bent ray of sunlight. Scientist Carl Sagan’s book used that image in the title of his book,  Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, in which he writes, “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

Looking at that pixel recently on my computer screen caused me to close that screen and go to the most recent photograph sent to me by the unknown provider which was of a lake with mountains in the distance. In the clear and shallow water of the foreground can be seen smooth stones and on ragged, peaked mountains are evergreens that eventually thin out and gave way to bare rock. The jagged peaks look like they could be in the Rocky Mountains, but they are in Germany. (Wrong again on knowing where a photograph is taken). But being wrong about any location of a nature scene, does not upset me,  and  I still marvel that so many physical areas of our earth closely resemble other locations. Despite differences, it is the earth on which all of mankind lives and much alike across its rivers, lakes, mountains, deserts, forests, and more.

The  KJV of The Letter to the Hebrews has in 2:7, “Thou madest him [man] a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hand:” I understand that to mean we are the stewards of this earth, and that is a task that we seem to have chosen to forget or ignore the responsibility for a myriad of excuses.

But I ask the reader to go to the computer and type in Voyager I and look at Sagan’s pale, blue dot that looks so small and isolated and alone in that beam of sunlight. But after looking at the pixel-sized dot, remember his words: “…That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.” It is all we have, so we should take care of it, that pale, blue dot.

It’ll Go Up

 

Tucked in the driver’s door of my van is a small CD case. Most of the CD’s in it are commercially made, but a few were made by friends. Last week I removed one from the back  of the case that had written on it “Good ones” in the precise black ink penmanship of Connor, a deceased brother-in-law who had complied many CD’s for me before he died. After his funeral, I gave the ones I had to his  granddaughter, but this one had somehow remained with me, tucked away.

The note on it is correct: The jazz, soul, rock, and blues songs are by various artists and all are good. It is a soulful and restful gathering of vocals and instrumentals, but none of the songs or the musicians are identified. Yet, I put it in the slot and listened as I drove around on errands. The ninth song on the CD grabbed me: A rendition of Bob Dylan’s song from the 60’s, I Will Be Released. Driving about town I would push the repeat button each time the song finished, listening to the voice that I could not identify but liking the way the unknown woman had arranged the song of injustice. After about a week of driving and listening, I came into the modern world and typed the song title into the search engine of my computer. Mercy! This old dog finally found Nina Simone singing the version that Connor copied for the CD.

When you have 4:21 to spare, go to: https://youtu.be/w-du8MDE8nk and treat yourself. You will hear Simone’s  great voice and the fabulous musicians give life to Dylan’s song. But as much as I like the rendition, it is the first fifteen seconds that cause me to remember Connor.

Listening carefully, you will hear the musicians beginning, but something goes wrong and Simone says to them,  “Y’all pushin’, you’re pushin’ it, you’re pushin’ it!  Just relax, relax. You’re pushing it. It’ll go up by itself! Don’t put nothin’ in it unless ya feel it! Let’s do it again, please.”

Relax she says and it will go up by itself. While Simone is speaking about the cutting of  the song, her words carry way over into living. I like to think that she knew that, and I  know that Connor did. He lived that. He never pushed because he  knew that it would go up by itself. He was not indifferent or lazy. In fact, he was quite successful. But he enjoyed living. He loved people. Being around him was relaxing and fun and it required nothing but feeling life: The good living he modeled by feeling it.

What a chance for me on removing the gold CD from the back of the case. While Connor comes to me through the music on the CD, he especially does through cut number 9 and Simone’s charge not to push it, but to relax and feel it. It will go up by itself.

 

 

Everybody’s Doing It

 

The ride on the stationary bike was damp and chilly this mid-February morning. However, what I saw in the world of birds on and around the feeders in our back yard confirmed a suspicion of mine formed last week.

Riding along, I saw more than one bird fussing with another, and not always for the sunflower seeds in the feeders and on the ground underneath them. It seemed that everywhere in the back-yard birds were glaring at each other or chasing another of the same breed or  carrying on in a frenzy of, yes, spring. Perhaps the most dramatic display was by two brown thrashers: One would chase the other until the chased thrasher turned as if to scold the chaser who retreated a few paces. Then they would individually hunt for seeds, then the chase would begin anew. I  finally lost sight of them when they disappeared into one of the large azaleas. The morning ride was easier because I watched the birds instead of the bike odometer, and the time of exercise was past.

However, as I later thought of the birds’ display of early mating, I thought of  how the important cycles of the world go on, often without our noticing. We get so captivated by secular happenings we lose sight of the ageless cycles of life of our only planet. But the words of Solomon should be remembered and appreciated each day: “To everything there is a season….”

The natural world has much to offer. Yes, it is violent and harsh at times. Yes, it is beautiful and refreshing at times. But we are to be its stewards “to dress it and to keep  it.” Yet, when we get too obsessed with the secular world we have made, such as the political one, we lose sight and appreciation of the natural world that surrounds us. When we become too self-important, we forget that we are just one of  the many creations of Him. We are made in His image, yes, but if we allow that fact to “go to our heads” we run the risk of losing sight of our place in the totality of life.

All the birds are doing it—preparing for a new cycle of life. They, like the lily of the field, do what they do. Perhaps if we each got out more, leaving the cell phone in the house, and walk around our block, seeing the world as it is and not as some news channel reports it, we would see that we only have each other, all of us made by Him, who does not make trash.

Cheering For, Not Against

 

In about 1977 I was witness to the ugliness that can sometimes happen during sporting events. The team I coached was locked in a battle with another local team at the St. Albans Wrestling Tournament in D.C. Some of our parents were vocal in cheering against any wrestler of our competitor for the team title. The vocal cheers of our parents grew and continued into the  championship finals, always attended by Canon Martin, the headmaster of the host school. At some time during the finals, he walked to the head table, taking the microphone. As I remember, he surveyed the crowd packed into the small gym and said, “No wrestler should be booed, ever.”

He then returned to his chair, lesson taught, and lesson learned.

As I read about the Cameron Crazies at Duke University and their antics during the recent game against Pittsburg, I recalled Canon Martin and his words. His lesson is lost, sadly, on the student section at Cameron Indoor Arena and at many other venues for athletic events. The Duke students even yelled at the Pittsburg coach, who played at Duke. No respect there, or decency.

Too many “fans” think the price of  a ticket entitles them to ridicule players from visiting teams. I knew of a lawyer who purchased season tickets behind the opposing team’s bench at Washington Bullet’s (that name dates me) games so he could “rag on” the players from another team. Go to the Internet and type in “Cameron Crazies” and be sickened by the view of an almost all-white crowd resembling an army without a general as its members gesture, shout, and verbally abuse anyone not wearing the blue of Duke. This prevailing behavior is mistakenly called cheering, but it is just mob behavior.

The lesson of Canon Martin has stayed with me, and I suggest that any fan, before yelling at an athlete on another team, remember the words of President T. Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; …”

Cheer for your team, not against its opponent. Those two prepositions matter.

 

Comforted Mourners

 

I have been wrong about the second Beatitude. I understood “mourn” to mean that if I cried tears, Jesus would comfort me. Then I read Dr. Clarence Jordan who knew something about mourning.

In his book The Sermon on the Mount, Dr. Jordan writes that a mourner is one who expresses a deep concern. Tears, he adds, “aren’t essential to mourning, but deep concern is.” Dr. Jordan, the preacher in Americus, GA knew about deep concern when he was threatened by the Klan, watched by the FBI, and told not to return to a local Baptist church because he had arrived to the service with a Black man.

Hearing the President of the United States take the Lord’s name in vain three times at ECU, use vile language in the WH, lie to us repeatedly, curse his perceived enemies, “play” the victim, deny responsibility, and say to Arthur Brooks at the National Prayer Breakfast, “I don’t agree with you, Arthur” (who had just spoken about loving enemies).

Dr. Jordan wrote his words in the segregated America of 1952. He knew about having deep concern for our individual sin and the sin of our nation. We need to be so concerned for our nation that we say “Enough” to this man and his enablers. Our belief should be in God, not Trump. As Jordan knew, when we mourn we will be comforted by God, not politicians.

Common Language

 

The February 4, 2020 Charlotte Observer printed an article by David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel. Whitley’s article rightly criticized CNN and Don Lemon for the show in which Rick Wilson and Wajahat Ali mimicked Southerners who support President Trump. As Whitley demonstrated, no persons should be ridiculed because of their race, economic status, or sexuality, and more. He points out that “they would have been fired if they’d done Asian or African-American accents or tired to sound gay. That double standard is nothing new.”

While I generally agree with Whitley, I wish he had not tired to “prove” his qualifications for criticizing CNN by writing about his Southern roots. What CNN allowed is wrong, and anyone, not just Southerners, should object. But our culture has grown accustom to, what my mother called, “trashy language,” and sadly the President of the United States is a leader in using such language.

However, what bothers me  most is the Observer’s use of the word “rednecks” in the headline for Whitley’s article. Now, take a minute and imagine that Wilson and Ali had used an Amos and Andy accent. Imagine Whitley writing his (justifiable) article and the Observer reprints it. Now, would the headline read: You know you’re CNN if you hate n******?

Slurs abound in our public and private language. They denigrate the user and the abused. None of them have any place in our lives or thoughts or emotions. Yet, here is a newspaper that desires to be a major one using such an epithet in a headline.

Point made, but I have one more observation. Why would the Observer use the word “hate” in any headline?  Speaker Pelosi taught all of us a lesson when a reporter asked her if she hated President Trump. Political principles should take a back seat with her answer of something like, My Catholicism teaches me not to hate. Hate is such a strong and harsh word that has no place, along with the slurs, in our lives.

Any epithet is a slur. Let us work to rid our language and thinking of them.  We all are better than that.