Once again, my right shoulder had been hurting – after x-rays and an MRI, I did
several weeks of therapy. Now mind you, I did nothing, as I recall, to injure it – it
just started hurting…. Again.
It’s not the first time this shoulder has caused me pain. To find that – we have to
travel back in time – over 40 years.
May 1971 – School was about to get out, and it was time to form our summer
baseball league. Pony League – 13-14 year olds, and these were the tryouts. It
was time to impress the coaches to include you on their rosters.
I was chosen to pitch batting practice. I had pitched all through Little League and
last year in my first year of Pony League, so it wasn’t as if I wouldn’t make a team.
Very few ever got cut from the team in our little town. So my job was to “lay
them in there,” to give everyone a chance to take a few swings – and hopefully to
connect. Several guys took their turns, and I “let ‘em hit it.” But then…
My arch rival Kurt, came to the plate. At least I thought he was my arch rival. I
went to public school and he went to the Lutheran school. So all through junior
high, we played against Kurt in basketball – and they always beat us – thanks in
no small part to Kurt. And in baseball, he had always been able to smack around
anything I could throw across the plate.
“Not this time,” I thought. My jealousy over past encounters left me wanting
desperately to blow it past him – to watch him swing in futility – to strike him out.
Pride is an ugly thing. And painful. I threw that ball as hard as I could – pitch after
pitch. And if it went across the plate – chances were it ended up in the outfield.
See, no one had told Kurt about our rivalry – because it existed only in my head.
When batting practice was over, Kurt’s fine-hitting reputation was still intact. But
my shoulder wasn’t. It hurt… for the next three days I couldn’t lift my arm. The
pain went away eventually – hey – I was fourteen. But from then on – if I pitched
– it hurt. If I tackled someone with it playing football – it hurt. If I did anything to
strain it – it hurt.
By time I was in my 30’s – arthritis had begun to set in. No more slinging
baseballs, footballs or snowballs – if I threw – I hurt. Now – having done the
therapy – it still took an injection to relieve the pain – and all for no good reason.
It can all be traced back to a day when pride got the best of me.
We all struggle with pride in one form or another – it’s an ugly part of our nature.
We all put ourselves first at times. We can be selfish, and covertly – or even
openly – seek to one-up somebody in the process.
I’m happy to say that later that year, Kurt and I joined forces – and for the next
four years, and all the summers in between – we played on every single team
together – he became one of my best friends – and he still is, though the miles
have gotten in the way. And recently, he and a few other dear old friends wanted
so badly to erase those miles that they arranged to bring us to Michigan for a long
weekend. And in the process, God took our friendship to an even deeper level–
which makes that foolish pride of mine, all the more foolish.
Everyday – my shoulder hurts… …my pride.