By Kent J Wessinger
As I battled through the most traumatic season of life, I was presented with an extraordinary opportunity to “give life.” Two years prior, the football league in my rural community had been canceled. Extracurricular opportunities for kids in rural communities are sparse; therefore, to have opportunities squandered by adults seems reprehensible. When the director of the Youth Foundation requested that I start another league, I respectfully declined.
Submersed in self-pity, I justified turning away from the opportunity with excuses like, “too busy, preoccupied and timing not right.” My self-installed blinders were forfeiting the privilege of giving life to a community of kids that longed for a chance to participate.
Four months later, I was on the ball field throwing the football with my 10-year old son. Fifteen minutes later, there were over 20 kids on the field playing football. I played quarterback for both teams for an hour, then retreated to the stands to catch my breath. As I sat on the bleachers watching the kids play on a field with no grass, no chalked lines, a broken scoreboard and a falling fence; I bowed my head in disgust at the lack of community leadership. Three feet away, a rat was eating a half-eaten hamburger. Behind me, the concession stand was covered in cockroaches and the garbage bins reeked of rotten food. However, there was a field full of kids that longed for life. At that moment, I was faced with a life altering reality; the kids of my community needed me to be a leader.
Since living contrast can be the greatest of all life lessons, the decision was obvious and required my immediate attention. I could continue to “suck up” life through isolated self-pity or I could give life through a forming a relationship. Whatever my response, it was saturated with influence.
At the first practice, I had the privilege of observing an authentic transformation; frowns to smiles, disappointment to excitement and idleness to activity. Men that were habitually leaving work for their televisions were coaching. Parents were standing along the fence eager to give me their registration forms. Ecstatic kids were jostling for position and humorously overstating their skill set.
As the first games concluded, I was leaving the field to eat dinner when I noticed my hands smelled horrible from patting sweating backs, shaking sweating hands and giving countless high fives. However, as I turned on the water to wash my hands, I realized the smell emanating from my hands was actually a sweet aroma of life. As I reached for the soap, I placed the soap back on the sink and chose to eat with hands that represented life.
Gratefully recognizing I was allowed to participate in a life-giving moment, I suddenly discovered that the pain of my trauma mysteriously faded. Relationship, which is the grandest of all innovations, was the simple solution that organically relieved my pain.
No cleaver or intellectual innovation can sooth, heal or open doors like sacrificing for relationships. The sacrifice of building relationships proved to be the innovation that healed my segregated community and elevated my well-being. “Give LIFE, don’t suck it up!”