When I arrived at my first day of work at the Ambassador College Landscape Department, I was surprised to find that it was in a total state of hostile disarray.
To put an end to the madness and disorganization the college hired a new manager. It was now his job to bring unity and to put an end to the internal disputes caused by the previous manager. Bringing order to the chaos proved to be an unbelievable challenge.
Ellis, the new department manager, walked into one of the biggest organizational screw-ups and calamities imaginable. It was amazing; the productivity level had almost dropped to zero because of the infighting among the employees.
Somehow, this courageous new manager took this group of misfits and rebels, and turned them into a team of hard and productive workers. It was not easy, and it did take time. However, he was a fighter and unwilling to allow the former style of mismanagement to continue; he would not give up! There were times that if he had given up and walked away, no one would have blamed him. He stuck it out and earned the respect and admiration of all the men and women that worked for him (actually, he made us all feel like we were working with him). He even gained the respect of all the other department heads. His style of leadership was both positive and powerful.
How did he accomplish this miraculous change among the employees? For one he instituted several programs to develop a sense of unity and teamwork. One such program was a Monday after work baseball game for the full time men and part-time student workers. Almost all the full time men and some of the students participated in the game on a regular basis. Usually about 40 men out of 42 fulltime employees would show up to play. Sometimes even the wives would be there to cheer their men on as they played rotation baseball. This rotational system assured that everyone, skilled and unskilled alike would get an equal opportunity to participate.
However, one individual, Lance, just did not fit in. He was very reluctant to participate in the game. He had no interest or desire to be a player. He did not care for or understand the game of baseball, (he kept asking, how many points for a touchdown).
He had one sole interest in life and that was his music. He had a passion for playing the violin and he was good. He could make those strings invoke the emotion of laughter; he could even bring a listener to tears because of his great skill. He was remarkable!
As a child, Lance’s mother never allowed him to play sports with other children. As a result, he felt quite uncomfortable at the suggestion of joining the guys after work for baseball. That is probably because, more than anything else he knew he was terribly uncoordinated and clumsy, especially when it came to tasks involving catching, batting, fielding and team synchronization. That is not a criticism of him; he was simply out of his element playing baseball.
It took several months of encouragement, coaxing, and maybe a threat or two along the way before he finally decided to participate in the game. As hard as he tried, and he put a lot of energy into it, he just could not seem to make a connection with the ball. The only thing he was able to do was to strike out or hit an occasional foul tip.
As the weeks passed he became a rather good outfielder with somewhat of an unorthodox way of throwing the ball. Surprisingly, he got the job done.
One Monday afternoon the game was going rather well, the team he was on was one point behind, bases were loaded and there were two outs. It was Lance’s turn to bat. The other team thought they had an easy out and the inning would surely be over. However, what happened next was amazing and totally unexpected…..
His teammates encouraged Lance to relax, keep his eye on the ball, and if he hit it to put his, head down and run like hell for first base. He foul tipped the ball twice. Everyone was anxious to see what the final pitch would bring.
Ron, the pitcher, went into his usual windup sequence, nothing spectacular, but he did have a powerful throw and if you blinked, you would miss seeing the ball. He wound up and let loose of the ball and it came toward the plate at slower than normal speed (a compassionate pitch on his part, sportsmanship at its best).
Everyone was astonished when Lance hit the ball solidly sending it deep into center field for a base hit. His jaw dropped and he stood there for a moment in total disbelief. The team began to yell at him to run because he was just standing there. So run he did. He put his head down and began to charge for the base like a mad man with a mission! Anyone getting in his way surely would be dead meat! He ran for all he was worth, you would have thought the devil was after him. The louder we yelled the harder he ran. When the dust had settled, everyone could clearly see where he finally stopped. As he stood up, there was an expression on his face of pride for his accomplishment. Unfortunately, Lance was not at first base! Of all places, he was standing squarely and proudly on the pitcher’s mound! He ran right into Ron, the pitcher, knocking him off his feet and nearly sending him to second base.
His team was yelling at him as loud as they could that he was going the wrong way, but the louder they yelled, the harder he ran. Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to stand between him and his moment of glory.
Then the reality of where he stood hit him, as you can imagine, he was truly embarrassed as first baseman reluctantly tagged him out at the pitcher’s mound.
Sadly, he never came out to play baseball again. I wonder if it really would have hurt to have laughed a little less and to encourage him a little more. For months on end, he was the brunt of every joke. It got so bad it boarded on persecution; it was relentless and seemingly endless.
It was like a bunch of chickens in a hen house pecking on the weak until they finally would die. Not that he died, but I think inside it hurt him deeply, it could be seen in his eyes, if only someone would have taken the time to just honestly look.
He eventually left the department for another on campus job. As it turned out, he excelled beyond expectations at his new position. He finally found the moment of glory he was looking for; actually, he found his new peers were willing to accept him for who he was, and not for what they wanted him to be.
No one remembers who won that game. You see that really does not matter today. None will ever forget the humor of the moment, and it was funny. Some will also always remember and ponder, if there been a little more kindness toward Lance it might have made a difference in his returning for another try. After all, the purpose of the game was to teach unity, sportsmanship and teamwork. On that day in particular we desperately needed to show kindness, and compassion; we failed miserably!
Were we truly Christ like? Sadly the answer is no, not for a moment! The college taught that character building at any cost was necessary, and that if we were hurt in the process it was for our own good. After all, they were the watchers over our salvation.
They somehow forgot that Jesus Christ paid the total cost. The only thing left for us was to learn to abide and trust in His love, compassion and mercy; and to demonstrate the same in our lives toward others. The church and college had the opportunity to have an impact on the world; they could have made a difference! Instead, they chose the way of judgment, condemnation, and indifference. These major three strikes put them out of the game, permanently! The result; the church is gone, the college was sold and torn down, the empire collapsed internally and it is gone! Only thing that remains is the tearful echo of those brave souls that endured cruel and ungodly treatment.
Jesus welcomes, and always has, all those that are lost, hurting and seeking truth and understanding. We can humbly come to Him, answering the Fathers’ call, the only true source of all healing and insight.
Be still, listen carefully, listen….do you hear His call? He is there waiting with a big smile and a warm embrace…choose wisely for your true and eternal destiny awaits.