What is Your Hometown Like?
I’ve heard the question forever, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It seems like a silly question because in reality it is both. Yet, the way you look at that glass determines if you are an encourager or a defeater.
Years ago I heard an old story. A man had arrived at a new town. As he was getting off of the train he saw a train employee. “What is this town like?”, he asked. “What is your hometown like?”, was the reply. “Well in my town everyone is out for themselves. Nobody is willing to help anyone. There is not a friendly person there. Nobody smiles much, it is a dog eat dog town”. “Well that is exactly how this town is too”, said the train employee. A day or two later a different new person to the same town arrived. He asked the same train employee the same question. “What is this town like?” “What is your hometown like?”, was again his response. “Well my hometown is the friendliest town I know. People are always helping each other with a smile on their face. If I ever needed anything somebody would always be willing to share!”, replied the new arrival. “That is exactly how this town is too!”, said the train employee.
As I walk in to the Rec Center I see them. Students all around on the exercise equipment. Conveniently many are watching TV as they exercise. Others are reading books. I always wonder how it is possible to read and comprehend anything as your body is moving on a bicycle machine? I have tried some different machines. My favorite was the rowing machine. I actually completed the time I set for myself a number of times. Each time it felt like drudgery. I’d set the thing for maybe 10 minutes. After about 2 minutes I’d be looking at the clock. Wow, I have to do another 8 minutes of this thing? It wasn’t so much how hard it was. It was more about my thinking. Too much time to think about the actual exercising that I hated to do. The TV might help for a minute. After that it was still 7 more minutes to go!
We met while he was working on the third floor. He had heard that I had loaned out my book and he was interested in seeing it. That was my initial introduction to Kahler. I had been playing racquetball with a group that was better than me and in far better shape also. I asked Kahler if he played racquetball? I think his answer was he hadn’t played seriously in a long time. We made a time and started meeting at least once a week on the racquetball court!
I could tell when we first played that Kahler had a lot of potential! He hit the ball very hard and could make great shots! One other thing that stood out was Kahler would actually dive after a ball if it was almost out of reach! That extra effort won him a number of points! One night I was hitting one of my tricky serves and Kahler was having a terrible time returning it. I could see what his problem was and after the game I mentioned it. This particular serve was going to his backhand at a quick pace and angling toward the corner. Kahler was trying to backhand the ball at that angle and he wasn’t able to get the good part of his racquet on it if he hit it at all. Finally I mentioned what he might try. It was a lesson I probably learned while getting schooled by those better players. Sometimes when you offer advice to people they turn you off. “Just play your game and I’ll play mine”, they might say. Not so with Kahler. He was open for new ideas to improve his game! “If you turn your body and follow the ball around the corner you can hit it off of the back wall with your forehand”, I offered. With that piece of advice Kahler very rarely got tricked on that serve again. Why did I offer that advice to my opponent? I can truly say that I wanted to see him get better. I knew that he would probably take that little piece of advice and use it to beat me. Yet, that was better than getting 4 or 5 points handed to me in a game without effort. As time went by Kahler has said things that have improved my game and encouraged me also!
You’ve heard the saying hundred of times I’m sure. There are two types of people, givers and takers. The biggest giver that I have ever known is Gary. I met Gary when I was 12 years old. He was a member of the church I was attending. My regular Sunday School teacher was not there one day. Gary was filling in because that is what Gary was about, helping where needed!
He asked if any of us would be interested in playing softball for the church team. Naturally I was very interested! That started a lifelong friendship with Gary! He used to be my ride to all of the games. Over the years I have seen that guy give away his money, time, and advice to anyone without ever asking for anything in return. He would consistently pay the softball leagues team entry fee out of his own funds so his team could get in. We are talking a few hundred dollars here. He never asked for anything in return. Many times he would read about some high school player or coach that did something good in some way. Gary would make the effort to go to a game and actually tried to meet the person and shake their hand. He is always thinking of others and is the most giving encouraging person I have ever known! Gary came over and helped me paint my house that I would be moving into a few days later after I got married. He never asked for anything. He did it as a gift to me. It was a gift long remembered after the other gifts were forgotten. Yet, for everything Gary has given away I have never seen him needy. He has friends from all over. It is still very hard to pay for anything with Gary around. He is such a giving person it is almost hurtful for him not to be giving all of the time!
I have played slow pitch softball for years and years. There are always players who think entirely of themselves. Forgetting all about that it is a team game these players draw all of the attention to their individual failures. I remember one particular player and believe me there are hundreds like him. If he had a good hit all was well! He was up and everyone followed his lead. But when he didn’t hit the ball the way he felt he should look out. First of all he would not even run the ball out. If he hit it in the air he would walk back to the dugout with his bat. A few times the other team actually dropped the ball but this guy was almost back to to the dugout with his head down and was an easy out. Shuffling around with his head down was his calling card. If there was a bat around he would kick it. He would also be known to throw a bat or two. The other players would try to encourage him, but he would have none of it. It would take an inning or two to get his head back in the game. If he had a bad at bat the next time it was the same story. After awhile it was hard for the other members of the team to keep trying to lift this guys spirits up. The wasted energy that his act had on the team was devastating. The best thing to do was to let him stew alone on the bench while encouraging the rest of the team.
I’ve seen other players who realize that not being successful all of the time is just part of the game. They didn’t stop hustling though! On the worst hits you could imagine they took off like they were shot out of a cannon. When they were called out they trotted back to the dugout with their heads high. Instead of taking the game so seriously you could actually hear them laughing about their futility. “I sure hit that one a mile”, they would say after topping the ball to the pitcher. Then they would start yelling encouragement for the next batter! That is the type of teammate that I always liked to play with!
When Kahler and I are playing racquetball we forget about the time. All we are concerned with is how to beat the other guy. Since we are both very similar in skills the games are always very competitive. We always play two games. When either one of us loses the first game we know that we can redeem ourselves the next. Most of the time we split the games. Sometimes one or the other wins both. Either way after every game we shake hands knowing that we both did our best! We know that we gave each other something far more important than who happened to win the games that day. We feel more energized and healthy after the games are over! There’s not the drudgery of exercising on a machine. We get our exercise in a fun way! After the time has flown by and we are leaving the court in our sweat drenched shirts we talk about the games. Kahler is always quick to recognize some of the shots that were successful for me! I commend him on his good games and plays he had! Sometimes when one or both of us are not up to standard we laugh about it. Instead of making excuses though, it usually goes something like this: “I may not have made some shots but the way you were playing probably was effecting that!” If both of us play especially bad there is laughter as we admit our failures. If one of us happens to lose both games one week there is a little extra motivation! We start thinking about things we might try differently for the next weeks games. We have both seen the level of our individual games dramatically increase and we both have each other to thank! By encouraging each other we have reaped the benefits of health, friendship, and racquetball skills!
When God looks down from heaven which person does he see in you? As Christians we should be the most positive, generous, friendly, and encouraging people on earth. However, within the church we see teammates that always need encouragement. We see teammates with a constant smirk on their faces. We see teammates that are always complaining. Instead of listening to sound advice they have decided that they like the constant attention to their problems. Living the Christian life has become a boring exercise in ritual that is a drudgery they must endure each day! Does any of these descriptions describe you? With everything that God has given us how can we not be givers back? How can we just think of ourselves when there is a world out there that needs our help? How can we refuse to shine our light in a world of darkness? There was an old baseball umpire who was trying to decide if the runner was out or safe on a close play at the plate. The catcher looked back at the umpire who was slow to signal. “Well what was he?”, the catcher quipped. The umpire stood straight up and looked the catcher in the eye. “He ain’t nothing til I call it and when I call it that’s what he is”, he barked. That is how it is with us too. We decide how we want to look at the world! We decide how we care to look at our problems! What is your hometown like? Be careful how you answer because your answer describes how this town is too. When you are looking at the glass that is filled half way add some love, compassion, forgiveness, encouragement, generosity and unselfishness water to the glass. Then you will clearly see it is much more full than empty!