Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tommy's Story

Pastor Hank Detcher with you today. One of the joys of my week is my weekly time of coaching, mentoring and sometimes fathering with my Cougars, Kanner Lake's Little League team. Something happened this week that caused me to reminisce about the year that I started to coach the Cougars. An old friend came back to town, and I saw him at church on Sunday. I'll call this friend Tommy. Seeing Tommy brought back a lot of memories. I'm telling his story--anonymously--with his permission.

I met Tommy 10 years ago when he showed up one Saturday in April at our Cougars signup day. It was my first signup day as the new coach. Tommy was 12 years old and, with his mom, Georgia, had just moved to our town. Tommy was an angry boy. His dad had passed away the previous year and he was in a lot of pain. Cancer had taken his dad, and Tommy seemed to be angry at everything and everyone. But Tommy was a great pitcher. He had a curve ball on par with an older boy. His talent had brought him acceptance by the boys and success for our team. Heart healing seemed to be coming Tommy's way as he experienced success and friendship with his teammates. But occasionally I would get a peek into his heart when he would respond to me with words like, "I'm fine, I'm always fine. Stop asking me!" I guess I made Tommy a bit uncomfortable at times. That first year was a good one for our team. We won more games than we lost thanks in part to Tommy's pitching arm.

As September came the Little League season came to an end and the new school year to a beginning. This was Tommy's first year of Junior High School and he desperately wanted to fit in. Hard to say why but he didn't seem to fit in the way that he did with the Cougars. He didn't have classes with anyone on the team. Tommy struggled to gain acceptance from his new classmates. This struggle, combined with the unresolved pain of his dad's death began to direct Tommy down a dark road that involved marijuana and alcohol. It was at this juncture that Tommy and his mom showed up at my office one day in November. Georgia recounted to me how she had found a bag of grass in Tommy's room. She just could not understand how, after all they had been through, that Tommy could turn to drugs. I was tempted to put on my preacher hat and talk to Tommy about the dangers of drugs. I instead decided to take a path that would change both of our lives. I decided to be a big brother to him.

For the next few years I would get together with Tommy once a week. Sometimes we would fish, bowl, shoot pool, watch a movie or just hang out together. At first we rarely talked at all. I think Tommy saw me as punishment for getting caught. Over time we developed a strong rapport. I began to see my young friend no longer as a project but a boy that needed a friend. I remember that day that Tommy asked me THE QUESTION--the one that I had been preparing to answer for a long time. "Why did God kill my father?" I wasn't quite ready for the question to be put this way. I spent the next few hours and indeed the next few years working through that question with my young friend. I am not sure that I ever gave an answer that he or I was comfortable with.

Seeing Tommy in church this week reminded me of those days. Knowing that my good friend had just graduated college and is pursuing a career in social work encouraged my heart. As I greeted people after church Tommy came up to me and embraced me with the kind of hug that let me know how love, faith and time can help heal those who have broken hearts. It reminded me of the verse in 1Corinthians 13 that says that love never fails.

-- Pastor Hank

Posted by ~ Bailey Truitt @ 7:00 AM
I could use some of that.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 8:15 AM
That's an awesome story and shows just how life changing a patient and constant love can be.
Posted by Blogger Stuart : 9:14 AM
Pastor, this really touched my heart.
Posted by Blogger The Curmudgeon's Rant : 10:00 PM
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