My son Ben, who just turned 13, likes playing baseball.
His first couple of years in little league were … endearing. David, “Bubbie” and I would sit in our folding chairs and watch, as he and his teammates learned how to play the game. Ben’s teammate Phoebe was a particular favorite of mine.
I think Phoebe must be a poet. She would stand in the outfield and stare into the sky (as a pop fly would come her way), composing, I suspect, verses in her mind about the blueness of the sky and the wispiness of the clouds. The ball would then land just a few feet away from her as she continued, I suspect, to compose more poetry, looking thoughtfully at the trees and the sky around her. Aaaaahhh, Phoebe!
While I miss Phoebe, I do enjoy watching Ben and his teammates play these days. My gum, they are actually playing baseball! Fielding grounders (often), throwing and catching (more and more of the time), and hitting that ball.
A few weeks ago, I noticed something had changed in Ben’s hitting. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so one day recently, I asked him about it.
“Well,” Ben said (in his new, low register that makes me marvel and also wonder if I’m losing my hearing, since I can’t always understand what he’s saying, it’s so low!). “Before, I would mostly just try to get a walk. But now, when the pitcher throws a ball in my strike zone and I think I can hit it, I swing the bat and actually try to hit the ball.”
Well, there it is. When the pitcher throws me a ball I think I can hit, I actually try to hit it. I try …
So simple. And such a powerful discovery, when you discover this for yourself … and find yourself …actually … trying ….
Trying, of course, means you run the risk of failing. Sometimes, you’ll swing and miss; you might even strikeout. Sometimes, you’ll connect, and the ball will go foul … or get caught … or be fielded and thrown to first, before you get there. But sometimes (and more and more often, if you keep practicing and working at it) you’ll connect … and get a hit …
It’s been helpful recently, to have this simple yet powerful reminder — to just go ahead and swing that bat, to go ahead and just try — when faced with other, more daunting challenges. Whether it’s a personal or work situation, or something even more fearsome and seemingly impossible — like how to repair the breach of racial injustice in our communities and in our nation — we must, at least, try.
Becoming more educated and continuing to be open to learning what we don’t know and were never taught, about our nation’s history, is one essential way to at least try. As many of you know, our Sacred Ground groups have just recently finished, or are wrapping up, the 10-session film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith, put together by The Episcopal Church, as part of our long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society.
As a co-facilitator of one of these groups over the past several months, I have found the experience to be humbling, heart-wrenching, galvanizing and transformative. Individually and collectively, our small group has navigated our way through countless miles of heretofore unknown-to-us history and soul-terrain. In retrospect, I can’t imagine not knowing what I know now, and not learning what I’ve been learning; and I can’t imagine doing this essential work alone.
Today in the church we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, marking the event of our Lord Jesus departing our earthly realm to return to the realm of the unseen. As he does so, he promises his followers and friends that we will not be alone, in carrying on God’s work of healing and reconciling the brokenness in our world, but that we will be empowered with God’s holy and life-giving Spirit.
We are, indeed, not alone …
So let us, at least, try.