Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.”
Mark 10: 16 (NIV)
The weather will be cool, perfect for the 111th Fall Classic, in the fifties in Kansas City, Missouri as the Royals host the New York Mets in the opening game of the World Series.
A lot has changed in baseball and our society since the first World Series was held in 1903, even though in the last few years you look around and wonder. But my bride will receive her yellow roses, as she has on the first day of the World Series since the first year of our marriage forty eight years ago in 1967.
A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting the Bush Presidential Library housed at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. At the end of the tour, your pathway of departure carries you through a long arcade of timeless classical photographs memorializing some of the pre-eminent moments in history. There are photos depicting some of the vestiges of our shame of slavery and the selfless, courageous sacrifice of the movement to turn its ugly tide, the space shuttle Challenger’s last launch, and Neil Armstrong’s giant step for mankind.
And on one wall a picture of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.
It was in 1947 that Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play baseball in the Major Leagues. The year I was born.
He played that year and throughout his career for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was named Rookie of the year, and two years later he won the National League batting championship with a .342 average and was selected as the National League’s most valuable player. He ended his career with a lifetime .311 batting average and was elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
But Jackie Robinson’s life and career were not all glory and awards. On the contrary, it was one in which he was constantly faced with painful racial slurs and hatred from people with unfounded, ignorant and deep-seated prejudice toward blacks in general, simply because of the color of their skin.
And on one occasion more than two generations ago, when Jackie Robinson’s team was playing in Cincinnati against the Cincinnati Reds, angry racial taunts reached a deafening crescendo.
A white teammate, Pee Wee Reese, the shortstop, and much respected among his fellow players and the fans, called time out during the middle of an inning. As the crowd began to quiet, wondering what was unfolding before them, Reese left his shortstop position and slowly walked over to Jackie Robinson, put his arm around his shoulder, and stood there silently. It was a wordless, but eloquently powerful message which said to the now hushed crowd—
“This man is my friend, this man is my brother.”
My bride, Lynda, and I barely remember as little children those days of separation, and segregated water fountains, bathrooms, restaurants and hotels.
I remember, though, a cold day in January, in Atlanta in 1993 as I took a break from day-long meetings to walk through the lobby of the hotel, stand at the entrance and watch the parade march by on Peachtree Street honoring the birthday, life and ministry of a man by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. After a while, I noticed a young African American boy standing a few feet from me. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old.
We watched the parade together silently as marching bands rolled by. Martin Luther King had toiled for him, I thought. Our eyes met and he returned my smile, and I knew in that moment we had no barriers between the two of us. I prayed then and I prayed later that he would never learn differently and would grow into all that God had created him to be.
And I prayed that I would continue to learn. I remembered that God created us all unique and in His image. I remembered that He created no one better than someone else, but all different with incredible potential. We are all His precious children, no matter our gender, race, ethnicity, culture, or whatever other artificial barriers we tend to erect between us, which tend to keep our hands and hearts from reaching others’ hands and hearts.
Then I remembered the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., which he shared standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. DC on Wednesday, August 28, 1963—
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
They’re not my words, but they are my dreams.
Yours, too, I’m sure.
Happy World Series! And more. Much more, for us all.
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2015. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.