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Branch Rickey was the team executive of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He loved the game of baseball. At least he used to love the game. He wanted to restore that passion again.
Rickey made the decision to bring an African-American into the game. That would be the first time that the all white All American pastime would experience a break in the unspoken code of the game. He knew that it would take a special player.
He and his executives went through piles of names. They wanted a player who could hit, run and field. This pioneer against the racist limitations of the day could not be soft, too nice or out-of-control with his temper.
They chose Jackie Robinson. His baseball skills were excellent. He had a fire in him that could be the strength he would need to survive the hailstorm of abuse hurled at him from baseball’s constituency.
In a featured dialogue between Robinson and Rickey, Jackie declared, “So you want someone who is strong enough to fight back.”
“No,” Rickey retorted, “I want someone who is strong enough NOT to fight back.”
This is a revealing conversation. It is at the heart of a truth in life that only a few understand. Fighting back is the world’s way. It is not the revealer of truth. Rather, in the hands of what is genuine, what is real fighting back rarely gains ground against prejudice. Instead, it usually loses ground because that reaction feeds biased opinions. It fuels hate and perpetuates bigotry.
When Jackie is being stitched up from a vicious spiking of his leg, he asks Rickey why he chose to break the color barrier in baseball. Branch recounted his school years. An African-American teammate took a lot of abuse for his ethnicity. He had convinced himself that he had done all that he could to make a difference in that situation, but truthfully he had not.
Now, he could make a difference in baseball. He could see that his decision was making a difference. Baseball was his love and now he could love it again.
This was more than about a sport. It was about one of the world’s ugliest blights, racism and bigotry. If you have been a victim of this base practice, watch the movie and be inspired.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
It has been a few days since the celebration of Mother’s Day. Normally, it is a family and fun day filled with partying and joyous expressions of appreciation for Mom. She deserves it. For years under great duress she has stuck by us, warned us, protected us, healed our wounds and cheered us on to greater heights.
In the back of my mind are another group of mothers who were sad because of that special day. It marks the memories of painful moments. Those warm tears return too often and are compounded on Mother’s Day. There is an incessant ache in your heart as if there were a hole there that leaks love, dreams and smiles. Will you let these simple words soak up some of that pain?
Those special moms on my mind are single moms. They became moms because of some man but for one reason or another he is no longer in the picture. I do not know of a good reason or a happy reason for him being gone but he is nevertheless left her to be mom and find some way to fill in for dad.
She works at least two jobs, sometimes three to make ends meet. Somehow she can cook up dinner, help the kids with their school work, referee fights and make a dollar both pay the bills and feed the family. Once the children are tucked into bed, she finds enough energy to tidy up the place, prepare the sack lunches for school the next day, do a load of laundry, brush her own hair and then sob herself to sleep out of sheer exhaustion and sadness.
This solitary life has its downsides during the day. She is terrified that the phone will ring and an emergency with one of her children will call her away from work again. In her spirit is a work ethic that will not let her cheat her colleagues when she cannot pull her own weight.
Church is a different story. People have treated her with distance ever since she found herself alone. Married women give her that look, almost hiding their husbands.
She has heard the cloaked criticisms, “That’s what social agencies are for. They should help her.” Or the veiled harsh spirit, “Our church will help that family some day. I heard that they are starting a used clothes closet and food pantry for just this thing.” All she really needs is a friend, true Christian love of acceptance and a real word of acceptance.
Single moms, I salute you. A very happy Mother’s Day to you. You are amazing!
photo credit: brucefong photography
My attention was arrested with the commotion adjacent to the library. On the front lawn of the seminary workers were finishing the final touches of connecting the temporary corral. It was a small enclosure with a lot of interested people watching the progress.
The trailer parked on the street said it all. It was covered with pictures and paintings of the travelling petting zoo. I was drawn over like a magnet had it grips on my soul. Animals attract us humans especially when the little critters are cute.
By cute I mean soft and cuddly. There are corresponding very cute sounds as well. Calves moo quietly. Horses whiny. Piglets oink. Lambs bleat. Goats sound very close to sheep.
His head was a mass of fur. His eyes were dark brown and showed total relaxation. He seemed to welcome the many little humans coming up to pet him, pat his head and talk special children language with them.
His pony pal was in the same corral. They shared the food for the day. Colors, shiny coats and gentle faces made the children squeal with delight.
Cautious parents watched over their brood carefully. They prompted hesitant children to reach out and touch the animals. They often set the example.
The corral master was funny, “Welcome, one and all! Children, touch and pet our extra friendly animals. Be careful not to pick up anything on the ground. Those are not chocolate candy pieces.”
Over to my right was a black bunny. Even though people and animals towered over him, he seemed totally relaxed. He was stretched out on the lawn taking in the massive stimuli around him. His nose was wiggling at a rapid pace, but you could see the peace in his eyes.
The only stressed animal in the pen was the piglet. For some reason the children all wanted to pet him. Parents tried to restrain the little porker to make it easier for the children to touch him. But, he was squealing for freedom. His only objective was to get to the food trough. Once there he was content to feed away and the children could pet away. It was an opportunity to have a symbiotic moment of food and feelings all at the same time.
These animals were a delight. Well cared for and expertly groomed they created a lot of smiles. They were all so cute!
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Mothers, if it were not for them, none of us would be here. To be quite frank, we would not be nearly as far along if it were not for them either. They cajoled disciplined and terrified us into knowing what was right and what was wrong.
It was no many of us who did not decide that what was right was what Mom wanted us to do. Furthermore, we also knew perhaps even stronger than the first was that wrong was whatever Mom did NOT want us to do. Of course it did not make any philosophical sense at the time, but it sure made sense in the seat of our deepest understanding.
By in large Mom was right. Now that I am older and older still, I find that those values that were instilled in me so long ago are still very much a part of what I am doing now and how I am living now.
Mom taught me in no uncertain terms to never be ashamed of my ethnic heritage but to be proud of it. When I had a chance to identify with it I should. She led the way by example.
If she were ever confronted by a threat to her ethnic identity, that threat was rebuffed in no uncertain terms. I felt sorry for those that drew the ire of Mom because of a snide comment, openly racist slur or a devilish sneer.
On the positive side my identity in my ethnic heritage was paraded among festive holidays, community events and even the presence of art and literature in our home. She signed me up for a community drum and bugle corps experience that our whole family embraced.
Ethnic food was more than just doing what was familiar. It was a wonderful and prefered option for all of us. She was a masterful cook of Chinese cuisine. Her skills gave to all of us a standard to measure the best in Cantonese food.
Mom of course was our perpetual chauffeur. She drove us from one event to the next. She was also my primary typist for papers in High School. It became her reason to send me to typing school just to get a respite from the pounding keys.
I was a late bloomer. She never had much to celebrate in my early years. But, in college and graduate school, she had a reason to smile. Mom being there made those special events very special. Thanks MOM!
Their official commencement takes place in Dallas. But, here in Houston is where families reside, their friends are here and their church family is here. Most of their support team will not be able to make the trek to the main campus. This is our purpose: to give families and friends a reason to celebrate together.
I love graduation events. There is such a celebration of the human effort and the counting of blessings from the Lord. When graduates gather to commemorate their achievements there is everlasting relief. But, besides relief there is an unmistakable note of rejoicing. Those two features are joined by an intense resolve to enter into their new life of ministry and discover all that God wants them to do. That chest feeling was still there and seemingly growing.
There were times when students thought it was too hard. They were demoralized. It would have been easy to quit and they almost signed the papers to end their enrollment. However, their presence at the graduation chapel proved that they stuck it out. Now, there is a huge smile on their faces. It was genuine.
This was an informal chapel. We had cheering. Laughter was encouraged. No spontaneous eruption for a loved ones was frowned upon. In fact it was encouraged. A spike inside of my chest reminded me that it was there.
The music was angelic. Each spoken word was challenging. The awards were stimulating. People were enjoying themselves.
After the program was over the fun was about ready to commence. People followed the wonderful fragrance. Caters were putting the final touches on the table fare. The barbeque meatballs were smelling very good and making us all very hungry.
Now, the real party let everyone be a part of the celebration. Old and young, locals and relatives from afar joined in the rousing sounds of a room filled with people all talking at once. It was electrifying. Kudos to Dr. Bailey, Willie, Evetta, Leonetta, Sherry and a host of student volunteers!
This was a joyous exultation of sheer happiness. We were all glad to be here. We were especially glad for our graduates who deserved the occasion to honor their years of faithful work.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
We enjoy the blessings of life even more when we have contrasting days of bitter pain. Sometimes those hurtful days are caused by people, sometimes by circumstances. Those moments take our breath away. They threaten our will to live.
When those inevitable moments brashly intrude into your life, one indomitable lifeline gives us a reason to keep on living. It is hope. Never give up hope.
Yes, I know. People can be very cruel. Sometimes that even justify their reasons to be hurtful. Do not focus on them. Revenge will never give you lasting satisfaction. It is the very essence of the motive of the bad people who heaped pain in your life. Instead, look beyond and hold on to the hope that is there.
Sometimes it is the hope to be with the people whom you love. Or it may be to return to a place where you enjoy life at its best. Never give up. Hope will give you what you need to persevere. Here is a look at this book that is one its way:
One of my writing projects tracks through the days when life was tough. Here is a description. It is going to be released soon. I hope that it will give you a reason to always hope.
Abandoned? Betrayed? Fired? Victimized? Disillusioned? Disappointed? No one plans for these painful moments in life. They happen no matter how much we try to live a life that is free from troubles. People are a part of the problem. Sometimes we are tempted to think that life would be great if it were not for people. Yet, life is all about people. We need them and want them. It is just certain ones that we could do without.
Then there are troubles that put a hitch in our step. Circumstances beyond human control crowd into our lives, uninvited intrusions of the painful type. Sometimes it is loss. Other times it is missed opportunity. We watch as good things happen to others. Now, we purse our lips and wonder why we could not be the fortunate ones just once.
One treasure in life that we who have lived through the agonies of life can know better than anyone who has never had difficulty is hope. We can choose to search for the bright side. By sheer determination and unabashed faith we can resist the urge to quit and choose to never give up. Instead, we optimistically keep going and believe. Life will get better. Never give up. Always hope.
Simple living is a blessing. Yet, life does not always allow that lifestyle to exist for very long. Each of our lives is complicated with the lives of other people, circumstances that pressure normal living or troubles that need to be addressed. Thankfully, in between disasters, horrific strains or disappointing people many of us live lives that are quietly uneventful. Those common days captured my curiosity.
I lived each day trying to capture how special it was just to be alive. No day is wasted when we pay attention to how valuable it is . We can touch the life of someone else and give them a bit of a boost. Afterall, we are all on a journey to eternity and we can cheer each other on that pilgrimage.
Here is a look at one of my book projects (coming soon) that observes these common days:
Life has its high points. There are great episodes that become memories forever. Nevertheless, we all have the routine days. Those are the majority days of our existence. Is it possible to be quite frank about those 24 hour periods? Can life be taken as it comes and totaled up to hopeful come up with a sum that is positive?
I have been accused on more than one occasion of being too optimistic. My friends have teased me to take off my rose colored glasses and sulk with them from time to time. Certainly I do not begrudge my friends to have the luxury of griping once in a while. We all grouse about something that is unpleasant or uncomfortable. Yet, I have never seen a good reason to be mostly negative about life.
That choice to deliberately be positive is not being Pollyannaish. Instead, if we are cheerful by choice that decision can influence our day. A good attitude over the same challenging circumstances in life can make our days much more pleasant.
Being real does not mean that we are required to complain. Nor does it mean that we have to confess something about our weaknesses. It is sufficient that circumstances alone will make life “weak-kneed”. While we cannot change those circumstances we can choose our disposition while living through those moments.
These pages are about those days. Some of the situations are funny while others are sad. Some of those are just nothing special at all yet, even as we live those days we can come out of them with a smile and a load of cheer.
I invite you to share these pages of life with me. They are pages from real life. I enjoyed living them. I hope that you will as well.
A new store opened up in our neighborhood. Everyone was excited because the reputation of this store was fresh produce. Who doesn’t love to have a ripe bowl of strawberries or a crisp plum to finish off the day? Ads were in our mail. Coupons filtered in every week.
We drove over to the store but skipped all of the fanfare of contests and prizes. Still the parking lot was jam-packed. We followed another car into the lot. That was an unfortunate piece of timing.
That customer stopped right in the middle of the entry. She was hoping to grab a parking spot that another couple was just getting to their car with a cart full of groceries. He angel blocked all the cars trying to leave the lot and all of the cars, including me right behind her, from getting into the lot.
Hovering for a parking spot is fine if other vehicles can get around. However, if placement blocks all other traffic, something is wrong with the driver. Yep, I honked at her as a representative of everyone else who was trying to negotiate the Grand Opening.
She couldn’t stand the collective pressure of the peering eyes so she slammed her car into DRIVE and drove away angrily, looking for another parking lot. I was a hero to my fellow neighbors. One blast of my horn was all that it took.
Inside the store we grabbed a buggy and began the quest for food. It was a delightful experience. We spent most of our time in the produce section.
Bag after bag found their way into our cart. Bananas were ripe and colorful. Plums were perfect in color and softness. Apples were ready to come to our home. Nectarines were calling to us. Of course the mangos had to join the party.
The biggest challenge is that there are just two of us. These fine specimens of fresh fruit have a short shelf life. We enjoyed our selections initially.
Then, two busy lives forgot, came home tired and went to bed early. After a week we remembered something vaguely in our past. We checked the fruit basket and the produce bin in the refrigerator. Oh well, our loss and back to the store for more.
God is into fresh. However, He gives it a due date. It will be fabulous but only for a time.
photo credit: brucefong photography
My special place for surprises is the grocery store. When I have a low-level of expectations, something surprises me in one of the departments or inside of one of the many aisles. This last trip to the store was no exception.
Again my duties as chief buggy pusher were being fulfilled with splendid skill. Deftly I followed my bride through the aisles and expertly dodging other shoppers and displays. Casually, I would be observing things around me.
Suddenly the great disappointment of November 2012 had an amazing resurgence. Do your remember the historic sadness that gripped our nation? It was a loss of enormous impact on the American people. Even the world would feel the reverberations of this catastrophic failure.
Hostess shut down and the Twinkie was no more. This creme filled delight for decades was now a museum piece. In a flash across the screens of American TV, this icon of children’s lunches was no longer an option
In my childhood I remember my mother buying the quantity box with individually wrapped Twinkies. When I received one of those treats in my sack lunch, I saved it for dessert. When it was time, I tore open the cellophane wrapper.
In my hands was the fluffy yellow cake. It had a fragrance unique to this Hostess morsel. Who knew that some day nutritionists would tell about color chemicals and dyes that would cause us to worry about poisoning our bodies for an early demise.
Now, as a child, the smile on my face was real. The first bite was just as my expectations had recalled. Flavor was unmistakably sweet, soft and highlighted by the cream-filling. Most importantly, the treat was all mine.
When the news of Hostess shutting down and the inevitable demise of the famous Twinkie, I felt a twinge of sadness like all of America. There were jokes about it, legends about special moments and of course the all time favorite satire skits on TV. This was a brand that everyone knew but it was going extinct.
That’s the surprise! Right there in the store I abruptly stopped. On a prominent display, Sara Lee was introducing their individually wrapped yellow cakes with a cream center. Also, they were advertising their chocolate cupcake as well.
Someone in this company had better receive a bonus. Maybe they should get a promotion. Someone had the brilliant idea to take what was a treasure now up for grabs.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Saturday was a highlight day for my week. I suppose everyday that I rise and draw breath means that any day is a blessing. My point however, is that this Saturday was a day that I was looking forward to with a great deal of anticipation. This was the day that my first class that I have ever taught at Dallas Seminary were coming into our home for lunch.
We had only one free Saturday before the semester ended. This was that day. When only one day would fit into our schedule then, the conclusion was obvious. My bride and I marked it on our calendar and I announced the date in class.
Naturally, there were conflicts. Two students had Saturday classes and had to miss the gathering. Two more had to work and couldn’t adjust their hours. Several others had ministry obligations and could not come. Nevertheless, we were going to have a ball with those who could make it.
The day before our gathering I had a day off. I worked to get the house ready. Hospitality is fun yet it does require some tidying up around the old homestead. My bride was at work so I had the chores listed for my day-off and it was time to work like a Buc-ee Beaver, a Texas Buc-ee Beaver.
Most of the chores were easy. I washed the dishes and put things away that were occupying the counter space in the kitchen. Next, the Living Room needed to have some attention. Finally, the common areas needed some TLC.
Friday afternoon I drove over to the China Cottage Restaurant. Mary, the owner, was there. She invited me to sit with her while she finished some paperwork. Then, she smile, “What may I do for you?”
I laughed when she asked if I was dining alone. ”No,” I returned her smile, “I am having some very special guests over to our home tomorrow for dinner. What would you suggest I serve?”
“Oh, this will be important to select some wonderful items from our menu,” Mary glowed.
“OK,” I joined in on the anticipation, “Let’s have a variety of beef, chicken, pork and seafood.”
“Very good,” Mary chimed in.
“I was thinking of your delicious chicken chow mein. Then, everyone likes your sweet and sour pork tenderloin. We need some vegetables, so how about an order of your green beans with beef?” my suggestions had come from thoughtful preparations.
“Come back tomorrow at 11.15AM and it will be ready, ” Mary assured me. This was going to be a fantastic gathering.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography