He loved basketball. Wasn’t very good at it. Never really had a chance to be. He didn’t have a father to teach him how to shoot...dribble...ride a bike...or catch a fish. His father chose to leave them when he was a little boy. He didn’t get to grow up playing ball like the other kids. Mom was too busy working. She had three jobs. Most notably one at the local grocery store. Worked as many hours as she could and then two part-time jobs on top of that.
If it weren’t for the school bus, I don't know that he ever would have left that single wide mobile home where he shared a room with his younger sister. It’s probably a good thing to, because she needed him there. He loved that little girl. I remember asking him what he wanted for Christmas one year. He said, “For you to get my sister something.”
He used to come in every morning after a basketball game and ask me all about it. He wanted to know every detail. How did we win? How did we lose? Who made the clutch free throws? Who hit the big three? Was it a come from behind victory? He re-lived those games in his mind. And as far as I remember, never got to watch one.
Life isn’t always fair. In fact, maybe it’s never fair. But I do think that God settles the score in small ways sometimes. Maybe much bigger ways than I know. So I thought it was a heart-warming moment when the boys on that basketball team wanted to put together their money to put a basketball goal outside that old, run down, single-wide trailer. It was almost as if they wanted him to be a part. They wanted to find a way for him to have joy. He was that kind of kid. The kind everyone just cheered for.
So they took that basketball goal over to his house...with a brand new basketball. As they stood there in the front door of that home, hole in the middle of the living room floor, baby number three sitting on the sofa and kids home alone, they were all overcome with emotion. That was a special moment. I think Jesus was there in that moment.
I haven’t had a lot of times seeing a teenage boy cry. For the most part, they wouldn’t let you. I’ve seen it at times when a kid lost someone special. A few times when they had their heart broken. After the last game of a really special season. And at different moments along the way when they had to face the music. But to see a teenage boy cry because they were so moved with emotion to bring joy to someone else...that’s a life-changing moment. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
I don’t know how many times that brand new basketball went through that brand new net. It may not have been many. But I do know that hearts were touched by that basketball goal. Several of them. And every time that ball was shot toward that goal, there was a young boy, deck stacked against him, that got to experience being loved, being valued, and being cheered for. Maybe for the first time in his life, he got to experience hope.
I saw a picture of that boy today. It’s been almost fifteen years since I’ve seen him. He’s a man now. He was standing behind another little boy. Looked a lot like him. He had a hand on each shoulder and a huge, prideful grin on his face. That little boy was wearing a t-ball uniform.
Amazing what God can do with a basketball.
”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12