~by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
As the parents of a toddler, we haven’t hit the period in life where we’re spending days and nights on end at practices and games and rehearsals, etc… So this past week attending an elementary softball game was a new experience. A picture-perfect night greeted us – summer, a breeze, the sun setting and radiating colors throughout the sky, cheers of parents and kids, and the smack of the softball against the bat. Community gathered to experience and participate in the values of teamwork, hard work, and cooperation mixed with a competitive and winning spirit. It felt good to be outside surrounded by youth and excitement.
The team I came to cheer for wasn’t having their best night. The score was well above 10 – 0 by the time I arrived. It seemed that everything was working against them. One pitcher in particular drew my attention. Pitch after pitch she threw a ball interspersed with a hit or a strike. But generally a pitch too high or too low. Over and over again. As a spectator, it seemed to go on and on, I can only imagine how the pitcher felt. I wanted to squirm in my seat for her. Yet, she stayed in the game. She didn’t give up. Her coach and teammates kept cheering her on. Telling her you’ve got this, you can do it, strike her out. And what happened? She continued to throw pitches too high or too low, with an occasional strike. And eventually the team reached three outs. The pitcher hadn’t given up. She stayed in the game. As uncomfortable and frustrating and maddening as it was to watch more points being scored. She didn’t give up.
The pitcher’s actions struck a chord in me. Perhaps more poignantly these past few weeks in the aftermath of so much violence and death and discrimination. Perhaps after so much international and economic uncertainty. So much has been written already. So many prayers offered. So much heartache. So many tears. So much blame. So much arguing. And so much silence. As someone who loves to write and use words to make sense of the world and my place in it, I’ve been at a loss. As a person of faith and a leader in the church, I’m at a loss. It seems that every minute not doing something is a minute lost to stand up for injustice and to bring peace. Every minute not speaking out allows another life to hurt, another life diminished.
But then I went to a softball game. And watched a young pitcher. A young pitcher frustrated and sad, throwing pitches she knew could be better, and I saw her not give up. I saw her stay in the game. After the game I met the pitcher, tears in her eyes, and she said, “I didn’t do well.”
But you kept playing, dear pitcher.
You didn’t give up, I told her.
And that makes all the difference.
Perhaps that’s where I am this week. I’m not giving up. I may not have done well in fully welcoming all of God’s people. I may not have done well in speaking out against hateful words. I may not have done well in telling someone that they matter and that their lives are valued. But, I will not give up. I will not forget the lives lost. I will not forget the discrimination that too many face. I will not give up on prayer or welcoming my neighbor. I will not give up on teaching my daughter respect and kindness, and the lessons of staying in the game.
Especially when the lives of the body of Christ depend on it.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a one-year-old, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Missouri.