How to tie a shoe. How to make their letters. How to ride the bus.
How to strike the ball. How to throw the pass. How to swing the bat.
How to greet a friend. How to get themselves to sleep. How to decline politely.
These, they learn by rote. There is a technique to be learned, an accuracy to be achieved, a method to be followed. There is a correct way to accomplish each of them. Once they can do it, they practice again and again to get it right. Kids need practice and a patient teacher who will offer soft correction until they’ve got the basics down.
Until they know it by heart.
Once ‘the heart’ knows it and they can execute the pattern without thinking about the steps, they are ready to try their hand at harder things. The techniques they have learned as children are the building blocks for the strategies they apply to adapt and adjust to life’s demands. This is living. Free-living.
What if we don’t let them try?
If we don’t release them from our tutelage, but instead stand by to correct their technique as they… step up to hit the fast ball which now may be a slider, cutter or change-up? Or take their stance to strike the golf ball which now may be behind a tree, on a side hill lie, with a pond dead ahead? Or drop to throw a pass into secondary coverage they’ve never seen, in the face of linemen bigger than they’ve ever faced?
As children, they need to learn the basics as well as they can, so that as adults they can apply the skills they’ve learned to situations they never saw coming. Accuracy and reproducibility then give way to flexibility and adaptability. When the foundation is there, the performance doesn’t founder, it flourishes.
What a joy that is to watch!
From a safe distance we see capability take shape and confidence grow as they apply the lessons of childhood to the responsibilities of adulthood. Not the way we used to do it, not they way we would have done it, but the way they have figured out it needs to be done.
When children are young, they need to learn how.
As adults, they’ll know how…
If we let them.
Come, go, come, go.
Regular as the tide,
as the sun, as the moon, as the stars.
not a season,
not a regular,
not fixed in the universe.
with empty hands,
with full heart,
with agile mind in slowing body.
the me that changes
against the glory of days,
of season’s greetings and departures,
of life gone on
in neighboring houses.
Does anyone know?
There’s nothing quite like playing a game with a kid. Pull out the equipment, explain the rules and you’re off!
When they’re small, you may need to correct them, re-route them, or help them a bit. As they grow, you may show them a few tricks and, every now and then, have to caution them when they get too rough or bend the rules in their favor. But somewhere along the way, if you’ve played your cards right, they start teaching you new ways to play the game. That’s when the game becomes theirs.
Two years ago our church experienced a terrible tragedy in the death of 14 year old Bennett Rill. Two weeks ago we christened a basketball court in his memory. Of course, you don’t christen a basketball court with a bottle of champagne, you cut the ribbons and play 3 on 3, as hard as you can, then shake hands, and go have some refreshments.
A bunch of us sat on the hillside to watch and cheer the competitors. Benny t-shirts were everywhere. Derick, Bennett’s Dad, was working the crowd, shaking hands and slapping high fives while Mom Carolyn was receiving congratulations and thanks for a day of community basketball that was truly a celebration of their son.
I’m wondering how this family does it. They have experienced something no one should ever have to go through, and they’re honest about how it’s going. “Bennett is still gone and our pain remains as sharp as ever,” Derick offered in his opening remarks.
Each day is hard and it isn’t getting any easier. They’re not pretending otherwise. Thank God! This family is living their mourning among us in order to help us all deal with this loss. Most especially the young friends of Bennett’s as well as his teachers, neighbors, and teammates.
The Rills, in their great compassion, have created a living, working, playing place where they can gather and remember Bennett in the way he would have wanted. By playing the game he so loved, in the way he loved to play it — as hard as you can until you’re completely spent and then go have a cold drink and remember the three-pointers you drained, and the lay-ups you can’t believe you missed.
The court was built with some of the funds donated to the Bennett Rill Memorial Fund for Student Ministries, the rest of which will support 6th – 12th graders at Floris to bring in speakers, sponsor events, send them on trips, and support them in mission work. But the court speaks fellowship. It beckons kids of all ages to come play on it, come enjoy each other’s company, and come get to know why it was built in the shadow of a church.
That’s the thing about a game. It invites you to play.
This court, with the number “21” painted in the far corner, memorializing Bennett’s favorite spot to shoot three-pointers, isn’t a sad place to remember loss, it’s forever game day, to remember victory and a remarkable young man who left us way, way too soon. But not before he showed us his love for God, family and friends and his fearlessness to share that. He was the “real deal.”
As I watch Derick and Colin cut the ribbons that bar the entry to that court and welcome it’s first “official” competitors to the championship game with high fives all around, there’s no sadness on any face, just pure delight. They’re here to play “Holy Hoops,” as Derick would say. He has opened the gate.
The Rill family hopes that court will get lots of use in the days to come and become a place for kids to congregate, get to know each other and themselves better. They’ll play some games of “H-O-R-S-E,” which on this court is re-named, “J-E-S-U-S,” and in the process they’ll come to know Him in fun, fellowship and the spirit of competition.
I can just imagine Bennett, who’s spirit is surely more alive here than ever, asking his buddies if they want to come shoot some hoops over at his house and giving them the church address to meet up. Bennett would probably greet them in the parking lot, usher them down the hill to this treasure of a court and then beat them with a shot from “his” 21-spot at the imaginary buzzer.
After they’d exchanged high fives, Bennett would smile and wait for the inevitable question. “So, Benny, where’s your house?”
“Right there,” he’d say. “That’s my Father’s house. Wanna come in for a drink?”
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love
his faithfulness continues
through all generations.
~ Psalm 100: 4-5