When I was a kid, the mission organization my parents served with had an annual conference at a college in southeast Michigan. I was a “home office kid”—one of three about my age—so every year I got to go to “Conference” and while my parents worked hard throughout the week and my older sisters helped run the kids programs, I had a whole week of Michigan summer with my best friends. Sarah, Phil, and I were the perennial hosts, each year welcoming a new set of kids fresh in from the mission field and showing them the lay of the land: the best field for catching fireflies, the playground with a covered wagon jungle gym and a slide Phil fell off when he was two or three and broke his collarbone, the pool with its terrifying high dive Sarah wouldn’t jump from until she was nine or ten.
The dormitories we stayed in were set up in suites, each with two large rooms and a smaller one behind the bathroom that connected the two. That room was the kids’ room, and we loved them, because we could close the door to our parents and pretend we had the freedom of our older siblings who got to room separately. While Sarah had to share her room with her little brother, and I often shared mine with the kid from the family next door, Phil typically got his room to himself: and he made the most of it.
Phil brought all his baseball gear to conference every year. He had bats and balls, gloves and catchers’ mitts, throw-down bases, and enough Detroit Tigers paraphernalia that anyone who wanted to play could wear something. And many an afternoon would find us on the lawn out in front of the dorm, spread out on our makeshift diamond, trying to play baseball.
I say trying to play baseball because here’s the thing, we never had enough players. Even when we got the annual kids to come along, finding eight or ten (much less 18) who were the right age was a challenge. But Phil wanted to play. So he made it work, even when he could only convince Sarah and me to play with him. He gave one of us the bat and set the other on the pitcher’s mound, and then set himself to play all the other positions with his whole heart and as much dexterity as he could muster.
Because you see, Phil loved baseball. He loved it so much that he was willing to play eight positions on the field with two girls who weren’t very good at sports. He loved it so much that he wanted to share it with everyone he came in contact with.
A few years ago I started paying attention to baseball again after a long hiatus. And I discovered that I had a deep-seated pleasure in it that I couldn’t explain—until I remembered those afternoons with Phil.
He’d loved baseball so much that it rubbed off on those around him. And Sarah and I find ourselves wide awake at midnight sometimes, wishing the final runner safely down the line to home plate as the Tigers seek a win.
The love of a thing is beautiful. It draws in everyone who sees it and makes them want to love it too.
So love. Love God. Love family. Love beauty. Whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, love these things.
Love passionately. Love deeply. Love so much you’re willing to play eight positions on a baseball team. You may never know who watched you love that thing and came to love it as well.—— —– —– Featured image cut from a photo by Courtney Sacco, AnnArbor.com