On July 10, gunshots were fired at a Little League Baseball game in Wilson. You can find the video footage on Facebook, although I admit that I cannot watch — the near misses hit too close to home.
My 6-year-old son just finished playing T-ball. I enjoy baseball, but the fun of this experience was more about the delightful kids than the actual sport. Multiple players preferred to wear their gloves on their heads. The shortstop lay on his back and made dirt angels with his arms and legs. Twin sisters only threw the ball to each other, no matter where they were positioned.
And there was Bubba. His grandmother hollered, “Bubba, swing that bat!” That bat was bigger than Bubba, but that didn’t stop our little dynamo from swinging so hard that he spun in circles. Half the time, Bubba was so dizzy he took off toward third base instead of first!
After the last game, my son, his glove on his head, grinned: “Dad, I can’t wait to play next year!”
As a parent, what more can you ask for? Sure, you might like your kid to learn a few fundamentals — maybe not the intricacies of a double play but how to wear the glove. At the end of day, you just want kids to have fun and look forward to the next time.
There almost wasn’t a next time for players and coaches in Wilson.
The list of places where children have been shot and murdered includes schools, movie theaters and playgrounds. Guns were also fired at Little Leaguers in North Charleston, South Carolina, this spring. How do we even begin to address this evil?
My fellow pastor and father Chris Breslin was one of the coaches on the field in Wilson. His Facebook post alluded to the challenges before us when he likened the police hunt for the shooter to searching for a needle in a haystack. The county, state and country are filled with guns.
Breslin wrote that, when he closes his eyes, he relives the horrific images of July 10. Whizzing bullets. Parents huddled under the bleachers. The young boy Breslin covered with his own body who asked if they were going to die. This child added, “I’m never playing baseball again.”
But as a person of faith, Breslin has another vision. He posted a friend’s artwork that echoes the biblical Isaiah’s vision of turning swords into plowshares by picturing a speeding bullet morphing into a metal baseball bat.
When I close my eyes, I can recall the metallic ping of Bubba’s oversized bat making contact with the baseball. I can hear his grandmother’s voice above the cheering fans, “The other way, Bubba! Run to first base!”
What sights and sounds will our children remember? How can we ensure that they are heading into the right direction in life?
How can we make sure there is a next season?
Breslin challenged all of us to take the next steps: “We must vote and harangue and persuade and partner to create a culture of action that is unsatisfied with anything less than justice, peace and safety for our kids, for all kids, everywhere.”
Bullets could be transformed into baseball bats. But it is going to take a team effort.
Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”
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