On the Corner

Missing a sudden turn

by Robert Docter – 

He was seven, and it was his very first game. His local park had a T-ball league, and according to his shirt, he played on the Rangers. Clutching his new glove, more anxious than excited, he felt like everyone was looking at him as the whole family climbed into the car. His dad seemed to think this experience was important—a rite of passage. He was very bright but knew little about the game of baseball. He enjoyed other pursuits.

He had attended team practices without much enthusiasm and learned how to swing the bat and even hit the ball. He learned how to pick up ground balls and throw them “over there.” His “spring” training was decidedly minimal.

Then it was game day. He felt a little better, dressed like all the other kids in his sparkly bright white pants, his red Ranger shirt with a big white “8” on the back and his very clean red baseball hat. He didn’t really know what to do, but he was “ready.”

Early in the first inning it was his turn to bat. His coach carefully placed the ball on top of the stiff, rubber “T,” stepped back and said: “Give it a good whack—then run to first.”

On his third swing he connected, much to the surprise and delight of his parents. His coach, somewhat startled, quickly said: “Run!” and pointed toward first base.

And run he did—down the first base line. Unstoppable, he continued straight ahead down the right field foul line and into the game being played on the next diamond. He just kept on running. He didn’t stop until he got to a fence on the other side of the field—at which point he turned with a questioning and frustrated look toward his coach a couple of hundred yards away. His dad walked back with him and personalized the instruction on how to get to second.

The boy, you see, didn’t know where first base was or what to do when he got there. His path had turned 90 degrees to the left, but he kept going straight ahead.

Sound familiar?

Have you ever felt stuck—trapped in the same routine—running and running and running almost in place—kind of lost—feeling very frustrated—out in right field wondering whatever happened to first base?

Frustration is the product of misplaced expectations. You expect a certain kind of behavior in your boss, your spouse, your adolescent son, your corps officer—and for some inexplicable reason the person from whom you expected something didn’t deliver. You feel frustrated. Frustration often gets swallowed up in anger, and unexamined anger often leads to depression. So—you better be mindful of your expectations—and—you better be willing to communicate them. Most people, you see, aren’t mind readers.

Maybe you lost sight of your goals. Maybe you never had any and found yourself simply going with the flow—taking whatever came—non-assertive in everything—never sharing your feelings or making your needs known or knowing and standing up for your rights. Maybe you’ve let others make the major decisions of your life. If you want to get to first base, you better know where it is and how to get there. A lot of people in this kind of fix feel burned out. They’re the ones counting the days to Friday, or vacation, or retirement.

If you’re feeling burned out, maybe you got yourself consumed by the wrong fire. Life is considerably more about spirit than we are led to believe.

Maybe your preparation for life was just a little inadequate. How much did you know about the job you took or the profession for which you prepared? How much have you learned about what it takes to have a successful marriage since your wedding day? If the answer is “nothing”—you’re about 24 units of study behind. How much have you learned about being the best parent possible? It’s complicated. Most parents raise their children the same way they were raised. Often, that’s disastrous.

So, if you can’t seem to get to first base, try moving from need satisfaction to growth. It’s possible at any age—at any time or place. Get in shape—physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and, most importantly—spiritually.

And remember, first base is only the beginning. The object is to make it home.

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