When it comes to stories, Mike Yaconelli is a great storyteller. This is the one I enjoyed the most. It is a retelling of a story by Bill Harley and was told on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”.
It is the story of a young girl who ended up breaking the rules, rejecting the expectations of all around her, because she loved with abandon. Here is her story:
Last year, my young son played T-ball… .Needless to say, I was delighted when Dylan wanted to play…. Now on the other team there was a girl I will call Tracy. Tracy came each week. I know, since my son’s team always played her team. She was not very good. She had coke-bottle glasses and hearing aids on each ear. She ran in a loping, carefree way, with one leg pulling after the other, one arm windmilling wildly in the air. Everyone in the bleachers cheered for her, regardless of what team their progeny played for.
In all the games I saw, she never hit the ball, not even close. It sat there on the tee waiting to be hit and it never was. Sometimes, after ten or eleven swings, Tracy hit the tee (in T-ball, the ball sits on a plastic tee, waiting for the batter to hit the ball, which happens once every three batters). The ball would fall off the tee and sit on the ground six inches in front of home plate. “Run! Run!” yelled Tracy’s coach, and Tracy would lope off to first, clutching the bat in both arms, smiling. Someone usually woke up and ran her down with the ball before she reached first. Everyone applauded.
The last game of the season, Tracy came up, and through some fluke, or simply in a nod toward the law of averages, she creamed the ball. She smoked it right up the middle, through the legs of 17 players. Kids dodged as it went by or looked absentmindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, seemingly gaining in speed, hopping over second base, heading into center field. And once it reached there, there was no one to stop it. Have I told you that there are no outfielders in T-ball? There are for three minutes in the beginning of every inning, but then they move into the infield to be closer to the action, or, at least, to their friends.
Tracy hit the ball and stood at home, delighted. “Run!” yelled her coach. “Run!” All the parents, all of us, we stood and screamed, “Run, Tracy, run, run!” Tracy turned and smiled at us, and then, happy to please, galumphed off to first. The first base coach waved his arms ’round and ’round when Tracy stopped at first. “Keep going, Tracy, keep going! Go!” Happy to please, she headed to second. By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves. It’s a rule in T-ball—everyone on the defending team has to touch every ball.
The ball began to make its long and circuitous route toward home plate, passing from one side of the field to the other. Tracy headed to third. Adults fell out of the bleachers. “Go, Tracy, go!” Tracy reached third and stopped, but the parents were very close to her now and she got the message. Her coach stood at home plate calling her as the ball passed over the first baseman’s head and landed in the fielding team’s empty dugout. “Come on, Tracy! Come on, baby! Get a home run!”
Tracy started for home, and then it happened. During the pandemonium, no one had noticed the twelve-year-old geriatric mutt that had lazily settled itself down in front of the bleachers five feet from the third-base line. As Tracy rounded third, the dog, awakened by the screaming, sat up and wagged its tail at Tracy as she headed down the line. The tongue hung out, mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped, right there. Halfway home, thirty feet from a legitimate home run.
She looked at the dog. Her coach called, “Come on, Tracy! Come on home!” He went to his knees behind the plate, pleading. The crowd cheered, “Go, Tracy, go! Go Tracy, go!” She looked at all the adults, at her own parents shrieking and catching it all on video. She looked at the dog. The dog wagged its tail. She looked at her coach. She looked at home. She looked at the dog. Everything went to slow motion. She went for the dog! It was a moment of complete, stunned silence. And then, perhaps, not as loud, but deeper, longer, more heartfelt, we all applauded as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog. Two roads diverged on a third-base line. Tracy went for the dog.
Two roads diverged in this little girl’s life. One is the road of rules and expectations, the other is the road of love. The roads of our lives are much the same. Will we go for the safe, predictable road of rules and expectations? Or will we go for the One we love, Jesus, who bids us come with wild abandon?
Need I say more?