Recession, Depression & Baseball

Recession, depression, the economy, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, elections, credit crisis.  These are all words we have heard in the news within the past few months. Yes, there have been many things said but none more than those words above. I don’t know about all of you but I’m a bit tired of them all.

I’m smart enough to know we are in a recession and many are depressed about it but I’m also smart enough to know that we can’t just sit around and dwell on it. The other day, I finally had something pop into my head about how to handle all of this while playing catch with Garrett and it made total sense to me.

Over the years, this country has gone through recessions, 1 great depression, 2 world wars, many other wars, 9/11 and other major things in our country’s history. But through all of this, I notice one thing is very constant. Baseball. Yes, baseball.

Baseball has been played for what seems like forever in this country and this is where America seems to turn when things get bad or depressing. Yes, baseball has it’s problems but so do other sports. Growing up in a home where football was king, I’m not sure how I fell in love with baseball. I have always loved playing the game and I think it’s the hardest sport to understand. But it’s the one sport anyone can play. For many years, baseball has been played on sandlots, streets and just wherever you can throw, hit and run around homemade bases.

Baseball is the American past-time and I only hope people can get back to baseball in life. I think people should look at their day to day life like baseball. It takes strategy and you have to have enough determination to take the chance to be great. Nobody ever got great by looking at only their present. But by taking a look down the lineup to see who’s left to hit and pitch. You build strategy for the next inning and for the next inning. And if you’re lucky enough, you can set yourself up good for the next game. Baseball and life both take team efforts to put together a winning franchise. Baseball is the one sport where one person can’t make all the difference. It takes everyone going in the same direction to get to the final goal we all share.

In one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones says it best. “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Baseball is a HUGE part of my past and I hope to pass this along to Elisabeth and Garrett. I know many people don’t get baseball, but in learning the game, you learn a ton about life and yourself. After playing a bit of catch with my five year old the other day, I realized that baseball can be the release to all of the recession and depression talk. Do yourself a favor and find a kid to play catch with. Throw until the pain of the day has gone to your arm. Don’t let anything stop you from doing this. Enjoy the upcoming baseball season as it marks the beginning of spring. A new beginning for trees, shrubs and just maybe, if you’re lucky enough to enjoy it, a new start for you!

Have a blessed season and please, if you get the chance, go to a park and watch kids play or go to a stadium to watch men play like boys. But all in all, do it to help change your outlook. No, baseball can’t save you from anything but it can release you from everything if you let it!!

I love you all!!

The Journey Ends

As the sun peeked over the horizon, Jack turned over in his sleeping bag and the sun hit him directly in his eyes and it woke him up. Jack couldn’t help but be a bit nervous but very excited for the day. Jack packed everything up in his backpack and went to hide his backpack in the brush that was right behind where he slept.

As Jack began looking around again, he started realizing he was much further in the tribe’s land than he thought. As a matter of fact, he seemed to be almost in the middle of their settlement, not on the outskirts. The map showed the cemetery on the outskirts but there were huts and houses all around him. And that’s when he noticed something that would change the journey forever.

It was a sign on the front of a building. It was in Portuguese and it said Escola em Monumento de McKinney. He had to think back to when he spoke Portuguese to figure it out. It was hard, really hard because he just couldn’t put it together and then it finally hit him. The sign said School in Memory of McKinney. His last name. What he had feared must have been true. His parents didn’t survive. But why was the school in their memory?

Jack began crying because he knew he would not find his parents but he so badly wanted to know what happened and why the school was in their memory. Would that mean they respected his parents or what? What did it mean. And with that thought, Jack heard someone behind him. He knew he had been alone and now, he could feel someones presence.

As he turned around, he saw two men standing there. They appeared to be friendly and he soon found out they spoke fluent English. They did not give their names but Jack began telling them why he was there. He told them his name, Jack McKinney. He asked them if they knew who he was and they said yes. “We’ve been expecting you for many years Jack,” the older one said quietly. “What took you so long?”

Jack was more than shook by this and fell to his knees crying out. Now what? What happened to his parents and could these men lead him to the truth? As Jack began standing up, the men took him by his arms and said, “If you will trust us, we’ll show you what you are looking for.” Jack couldn’t turn this down.

As they walked for the next hour or so to the main part of the settlement, they two men explained to Jack that the portion of the settlement he was on was a newer settlement that his parents helped start. Jack was in total awe and just didn’t know what to say. 

As they continued their talk, they explained that they were the leaders of the jail. The tribal leaders had arrested John and Stacy for teaching English in the region. The guards knew they had no reason to be jailed and over the first year of their time in jail, they had taught the guards and their fellow captives English. As the second year came around, the guards would take them out at night and allow them to start teaching English to the rest of the settlement. For the next 12 years, they taught English to those who wanted to learn and helped those tribe members build their own settlement. One with a school.

But in the 13th year of their capture, the tribal leaders found out they had been teaching the guards and their families English and were put to death. The guards comforted Jack as he found this out but they both wanted him and the rest of their family to know they were heroes to the tribe members. They helped start the most forward thinking tribe in the region and with their teachings, they were able to overthrow the tribe leaders and elect their own leaders. Without the McKinney’s teaching and their death, this would not have been possible they explained.

Jack’s mind was still reeling when they said, “Here is what you’ve been looking for Jack.” It was a very nice area with 2 headstones. As Jack moved closer to them, he saw their names. Jack took out his camera and took a picture. He couldn’t believe he was actually finding his parents again. He was noticeably upset but he was so proud to be their son. Finding this place and these men brought truth and closing to him. The men asked Jack if he wanted to take them home and Jack could only say, “they are home here. This is their final resting place and I’m good with that.”

Jack thanked the men and asked if they had a faster way back to his home. They were happy to help him with this request. As Jack got into their helicopter, he couldn’t wait to get back to Shelly, Miguel and Mary. To know the truth was better than he expected. But why was he led here to this place at this time was still going through his mind.

Jack finally got the courage to ask the men if the school was still open. They explained to him it closed a little over a year ago because their only qualified teacher had passed away. She was taught to teach by John and Stacy. This news hurt Jack very badly and coudn’t believe what they were saying about the school.

As Jack got off the helicopter, Shelly was waiting for him. What had he found and why was he so happy? As he began talking to Shelly, he broke down. He explained he had found the truth and his calling. Shelly couldn’t believe it as he went through the past 10 days and what he had found. Shelly and Miguel were so happy. They had no idea what Jack might find but were so pleased in every way possible.

So, as Jack folded his last shirt and put it in his bag, he knew he had grown and knew exactly how much. He also found out that the truth will set you free and set you to your true calling. After his bag was packed Jack went to the airport and took his flight back to Kansas City. But this time it would be his last trip to Kansas City.

Jack had decided to follow his calling and teach in the school in the settlement his parents helped start. He couldn’t believe it but knew this was the right thing to do. It was his way of moving on and moving up. He would be close to Shelly, Miguel and Mary and would be able to help all of them. Jack had not only found the truth during the journey but had found his calling. Now he was headed to help everyone he came in contact with to find their calling.

The End.

The Journey – The Search

Jack was the first one awake in the house the next morning and as he fixed breakfast, he couldn’t stop thinking about his time with Jose the day before. He was still trying to figure out what he knew and today was the first day in trying to find out what Jose was so upset about. Jack was packed and ready to head into the jungle he spent so much time in during his first 8 years.

But this time was different. When he was younger, he thought about his family, future and dreamed of teaching in the village with his parents. But now it was a search. A search for the truth of what happened 20 years ago and a search for who he truly is. Jack never could figure it out in Kansas City and he thought coming back here would help. But as the hope built, so did the questions about his past.

Jack finished breakfast, wrote a note to Shelly and took off on his search. It was a warm, humid morning and the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. As Jack entered the jungle, he thought about his dad. This was a place where he and his dad went as a refuge from it all. John had spent many years in this jungle and Jack just couldn’t believe someone had taken him and his mom deep into the jungle for harm. Yes, Jack had fear of what he might find or what might happen but he knew he had to go.

The terrain was easier than he remembered and he was very happy he remembered the jungle so very well. As Jack walked further into the jungle he heard someone behind him. He stopped to see who it was and it was Jose. Jose knew Jack would come out here and wanted to tell him why he couldn’t speak the day before.

Jose knew where the tribe who took his parents settled. He had gone deep into the jungle about a year after they went missing with his father and they spotted them. As they left to go tell Miguel and their village leaders, Jose’s father was shot and killed for trespassing. This so shook Jose that he could not tell anyone what they had found. All he did was lead the leaders to his father’s body and had them carry him back. They thought a hunter had accidentally shot Jose’s father but Jose knew what had happened.

As he told Jack this, Jack stood in disbelief and pain. Pain for Jose because of what he had seen and disbelief his parents were alive a year after their kidnapping. Jose warned Jack of trespassing on this land but Jack had to go and see if he could find what happened to his parents. Jose gave him a map but told him he couldn’t go any further. “Good luck Jack,” Jose said. “Please know I love you and I hope the best for you.” Jose turned and walked away from Jack.

Jack knew he had to press on but was a bit worried about what he might find. The tribe’s settlement was about a 10 day hike and Jack knew it was risky. But he felt the reward outweighed the risks. If he lost his life while searching for the truth then so be it. But if he died knowing he got so close and didn’t search for the truth, then he would never be able to forgive himself. As day turned to night, Jack pulled out his sleeping bag and got some sleep. He needed to make it to the tribe fast and rest was something he needed.

As Jack continued hiking deeper into the jungle, he began to wonder if there was a real chance his parents were still alive. If they survived 1 year, why not 20 years he thought. Jose’s map was spot on and on day 8, Jack arrived to the edge of the tribe’s settlement. Jack surveyed the land like a good hunter and found what looked to be a cemetery.

Jack looked around and found the names of many Americans. Was this was a cemetery where the tribe buried their captives? As he searched for his parents names, he grew weary and was having a hard time thinking about moving forward. He had been in the jungle for 8 days and to this point, he knew a little more truth but nothing that overwhelmingly pointed to the total truth. Jack decided to hide out and sleep for the night because he believed tomorrow would be the day he learned the truth.

To be continued….

The Journey – Hope Arises

After being back home for a bit over a week, Jack finally started to realize how special this place was to his family. The school was the place where he learned to read and started one of the most precious friendships someone could ask for. As a first grader, Jack met his buddy, Jose. Jose was someone Jack thought of often and never thought he would see again. After Jack left the village for America, he cried for and wondered about Jose.

It didn’t take long for Jack and Jose to reunite after Jack’s return. Jack always knew Jose was special to his family but in a new way now. Shelly took Jack over to Jose’s house one afternoon and she explained to him that they had been dating for about 2 years now. Jose wanted to see Jack because he loved and missed him but he also wanted to ask Jack if it would be okay for him to marry Shelly. Jack was taken by surprise but really couldn’t say no to his friend from so many years ago. His only reservation was this was defenitely going to keep Shelly here forever.

After talking to Shelly and Jose, Jack gave them the family blessing and they all started talking about good times from so many years ago. Jack wanted to know about everything that had happened since they last saw each other. Jose was nervous at first but as soon as he started talking, everything came out. He told Jack and Shelly about how after they left the leaders of the tribe who had taken their parents came back to search for them. They knew there were children to be found but could not find them.

Jose explained to them how the tribe leaders searched every home there and when they could not find the children they were looking for, they ravaged the village, especially the school. Miguel and Mary’s place was the hardest hit and that’s why they moved into Jack and Shelly’s old house. The tribe knew Miguel and Mary had hidden them and  had sent them to Amercia with family.

Then Jose started to cry. Jack and Shelly were confused and asked Jose if he was okay. Jose tried to talk but couldn’t. He was silent. Jack feared Jose had seen something or knew something about their parents. Jack continued to try to talk to Jose but he couldn’t talk. Or wouldn’t talk in Jack’s mind. Please he would beg. But it just wasn’t changing anything.

As Jack and Shelly left Jose’s house, Jack was even more confused than before. Why did he just go silent? Was there something he knew or was he just so shaken up from talking about the past? Jack just didn’t know what to think of his soon to be brother in law but one thing was certain in his mind. He was going to find out very soon.

Jack got back to the house and found Miguel on the front porch listening to music. Miguel tried to act as if he were sleeping but Jack just wanted to talk with him. He explained what had happened at Jose’s and wondered if Miguel knew anything.

After spending over a week here, Jack finally started to feel comfortable enough to search on his own and he told Miguel he would be gone for the next few days searching for the truth. Miguel tried to stop Jack but knew he was too much like his dad and there was no stopping him once his mind was set. “Please take every precaution you can Jack,” Miguel said. “I just want you to be safe. You and Shelly are all Mary and I have.”

With those words, Jack went into the house, went to his room and started packing for the search that would begin in the morning. Jack didn’t know if he would find the truth or more dead ends. But one thing was certain, he had 20 days left until he was to return to Kansas City. He was going to search for the truth but he had also made up his mind he wasn’t missing that flight.

Hope was really beginning to flourish in Jack’s life and he had 20 days to find what he had lost 20 years ago. He was back home and ready to find it. Finding family, friends and time lost was one thing. Finding the truth was another. Jack had no time to waste. The jungle awaited him and welcomed him after 2o years. But the question still remained. What would he find?

To be continued…..

The Journey – Back Home

After Jack gained his composure, he asked Miguel where Mary and Shelly were. “That’s why I called you to come down here,” Miguel said quietly. On the phone, Miguel told Jack Shelly was in need but wouldn’t tell him what she was in need of. Jack was a bit discouraged and very much wanted to get on the next plane to Kansas City because he felt Miguel brought him down here for selfish reasons.

Miguel promised Jack’s dad many years ago he would take care of Jack and Shelly if anything happened. Although he didn’t fulfill this promise, Miguel hoped Jack had a bit of his dad in him. Miguel was in need of Jack’s help to take care of him and Mary. Miguel went on to explain to Jack that Shelly was back at the house with Mary. Mary’s health had declined and there was nothing the doctors could do for her. Mary had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Miguel knew he needed help with the school, Mary and the farm. Shelly requested Miguel call Jack to come down and use any story to get him to come. She knew he would come but just didn’t know how he would react once there.

Jack couldn’t believe how much he remembered of the village as Miguel drove him to the house where he lived 20 years earlier. They passed the courts where some kids were playing dodge ball and basketball just as Jack did in his early years. There was a baseball diamond, the lot, where Jack learned how much fun one person could have for an entire day playing baseball. They also passed the school where he learned to read and where he knew Shelly taught. As they passed the school, Jack couldn’t help but tear up thinking about his parents. Behind the school was the jungle. This is where Jack would go and think when he was younger and the place of refuge with his dad. They spent many days out there but after he lost his parents, he didn’t go back.

As they pulled in front of the house, Jack couldn’t hold back any longer. He burst out in tears and told himself this was a good thing. Shelly was in there and now life could start over in the same place it had ended 20 years ago. Shelly greeted him as he came in and as they hugged, he thought back to the last time he hugged his sister in this house. It was the night his parents were taken by the men at gun point. Mary & Miguel had hidden the kids from the tribe leaders so they wouldn’t be taken. Jack never thanked Mary & Miguel for hiding them because he really just wanted to be with his parents.

Shelly and Jack were able to talk and as they did, Mary came into the room to see who was there. She couldn’t remember Jack’s name but she did call him John, Jack’s father. This brought a whole new level of pain to Jack and he just wanted to run far away. But he knew Mary needed help and knew by trying to help her, he would be helping himself. As the four of them talked, Jack and Shelly were able to find out so much about their parents they had never heard. The good times, the bad times, the people they taught, the people who taught them. So many names and so many people who missed them. But none of them more than Jack and Shelly.

Talking to Miguel and Mary was good for Jack. For him, it was a time to heal he thought. But he had no idea what the next days would bring. The hope of healing his heart is what he had but the promise of finding something lost so many years ago was emerging.

To be continued…..

The Journey Continues

As Jack flew, his stomach began knotting up. He couldn’t sleep, drink or eat. All he could do was wonder why at this time he was headed back. Would it be different this time or would he again be very disappointed? Jack was still in awe of the phone call. For the first time in a while, Jack had hope.

Shelly had been gone for 4 years now and she hadn’t talked to Jack except at Christmas and birthdays. But this call was different. It wasn’t Christmas or anyone’s birthday and it wasn’t Shelly. Jack was continually worried about Shelly but knew no news was good news. Well, that’s what he thought. But when the phone rang and he answered it, he had a felling something was wrong.

The person on the other end was Miguel, his dad’s best friend who he hadn’t talked to since he left 20 years earlier. Miguel and his wife Mary had taken Shelly in when she moved back to teach. They were the only stability Jack and Shelly had after their parents were taken and they looked after them until their aunt came and brought them back to the states. But Jack couldn’t believe what Miguel was saying.

Miguel and Mary were also teachers and Jack blamed Miguel for him losing his parents. Jack felt Miguel didn’t look hard enough for his parents and felt he could have done more to get their release. But Miguel sat back and and told Jack and Shelly it was out of his control. Forgiveness for this was not something high on Jack’s list.

Jack really never wanted to head back to this place. He never wanted to see Miguel and Mary but knew his dad would be disappointed if he went on with life without searching for the truth. As the pilot asked the flight attendants to prepare for landing, all he wanted to do was head back to Kansas City instead of getting off the plane.

Will Miguel recognize him or will he recognize Miguel? Will Shelly ever be able to forgive him for the way he acted when she left and for the words he spoke? Will the memories be too much to handle? Jack knew he had to but he didn’t want to get off the plane. But as the entire plane emptied, Jack decided to take the first step to recovery and walk off the plane.

As Jack walked off the plane, he noticed Miguel and collapsed in his arms. Jack was back home and now the recovery was to begin, thus beginning all over again. He knew what he had to do this time but he was skeptical. Jack had a return ticket and was not going to stay more than 30 days. Miguel talked him into staying a month on the phone but Jack had no idea what he would find in these 30 days and how his life would change.

To be continued…..

The Journey Begins

Jack’s curiosity and wild spirit drove his actions but this time he was reserved. He couldn’t even think about going but yet something inside was telling him to go. It was miles away. Another country, another culture, a much different language. But still he wondered why he got the call. Why not someone else? Do I seriously need to go? And with that thought, Jack’s decision was set. He would go and see but didn’t think he would stay long.

There was so much to do to get ready. His passport was ready but had never been stamped, well, not since he last saw his parents. Jack was born in the remote jungle around the Amazon and came to the states with his sister, Shelly, and aunt when he was 8. His parents were captured and presumed dead. The only family he had was Shelly and and their aunt who didn’t want to raise kids. They came back to the states and began a new life. One without stability, parents or a clear future.

That was then and not much had changed over the years.  Jack often wondered about his parents. Why did they want to raise a family there? Why were his parents always having people over? Why did they have to answer the door that night? Why is all that went through his head for the last 20 years.

Jack’s parents were teachers in the Amazon. They spoke 3 languages and had the respect of most of the tribes. But there was one tribe, the most feared tribe, that didn’t want them there any more. Jack and his sister wondered why they stayed but their dad always said it was their calling. “We’ll stay here forever kids, however long that is,” he would say.

Jack wondered about them often and said he’d go back if he had the chance but once before, he said no. But Jack’s sister always wanted to follow in her parent’s footsteps. So after college, only 4 years ago, Shelly went back to the Amazon to teach. Jack was furious with her decision but like their dad said, it was a calling and there was no holding her back.

But this time it was different. The voice on the phone was too familiar and coudn’t believe who it was and what they were saying. Jack got everything he needed in place for the journey. Tickets were purchased, good byes to his friends were said and Jack was on his way. Leaving Kansas City was easy, the hard part would be getting off the plane. Going to a place with lots of history and bad memories. But he knew this would be different.

To be continued…