Saturday mornings are for sleeping in. They’re for lazy traipses into the living room only to plop back down on the couch and submit to the weight of your eyelids once again for a mid-morning nap. They are for brunch. Not breakfast because that would require cooking and eating too early which is blasphemy to a snoozy Saturday morning.
But this past Saturday morning something encroached on my well-planned unplanned day. Addyson is a cheerleader and her squad was invited to cheer at a special needs sports program’s opening day. So us early birds rushed down the interstate 30 minutes south, sans breakfast (to buy an extra few minutes of sleep) at dawn so that we could beat the sweltering August heat.
We arrived to a bustle of activity. Moms and dads, brothers and sisters, coaches and guardians aiding in the ready-making of their loved one. The opening day ceremony field was littered with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and arm braces. Children stumbled around the field in an unorganized commotion as their coaches tried to coax them into standing still for the pomp and circumstance. Good luck with that.
The stands were full of eager and nervous fans when out walked, to my surprise, the voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide- Eli Gold. The voice that had called half a dozen national championships, colored the games of the gods as he commentated arguably the greatest college football program in the history of the sport, stood at the center of the field and helped tie a few shoes. When he spoke I assumed that it would feel misplaced. His usual Saturdays spent with super-humans, this day he would paint the play of the powerless.
With the opening pitch thrown, the games began. The coaches and helpers and cheerleaders numbered a 1:1 ratio to the players. The competitive fury of a normal sports day was replaced with patience and gentle voices. The stands felt the same as the crowd roared for every foul tip, every bunt stretched into a triple, every in-the-park, in-the-infield homerun.
The next day churches would fill with millions of men, women, and children in their Sunday best, but they would be hard pressed to find a more holy place than this sweltering August Saturday morning ball field.
There’s something sacred about a group of people who sacrifice their time and effort for a group of unnoticed children. Those who bring value to the unvalued by noticing the unnoticed. Where longsuffering replaces the fever of competition and the unabled bodied take center stage. The sanctity of that space is unmatched by any ornate stained glass cathedral.
Tiffanni doesn’t offer the same energy and life to every room that she once did. For the first time that I’ve known her, she fades into the corners- my wallflower. Her conversations are labored, her attention wains. But more times than not, when we’re out, when we’re at church, when we visit a friend, someone gets down on a knee, looks eye to eye with her and focuses all of their attention into her face. She’s slow to respond, a tardy grin on her best days. She can’t initiate, can’t reciprocate in the way that she once did.
But I notice.
I notice the patient one-sided conversations from a friend. I see the hand holds, cheek kisses, arm rubs, neck massages, minutes spent fanning the heat away. Each moment of value to the unvalued doesn’t escape me. I have never been a great giver or receiver of gifts, but there is none greater than the attention given my bride. So, to you who care so much and have noticed- thank you. If there are jewels or crowns or robes or mansions in the next life, and if I somehow wind up with something- you noticers can have mine. But I doubt it will come to that, for in my understanding of the Supreme, you’ve earned the greatest reward heaven bestows.