Sunday, May 3, 2015

20 Years Later: Reflections of a Perennial Underdog (Part 2)

Home is an amazing place.  Home is where family is.  Family is everything.  Family is where we learn.  Family is more than biology.  Family is more.  After searching so long for a home, it was only fitting that when I found one, I found family too.
I was born into the family of a machinist and a home-maker.  By the time we made it to McCune I was the son of a preacher.  Mom was still the happy home-maker and a great one at that, but dad was now living out a calling he had to go into ministry.  I didn't understand that calling.  (I eventually figured it out, but I'll save that for another installment).
While I didn't understand Dad's calling, and understood it even less after the Sedan debacle, I am thankful for it.  It was that calling that lead us not just to McCune, but to the McCune church of Christ. It was that calling that lead me to my new family. There is absolutely nothing in the world like the bonds of people in a small town church.
The first weekend we were there, I hit it off with a kid who was a few years younger than me. Little did I know that the kid would become a pseudo little brother for me and one of the men I hold in my highest circle of esteem and respect.  Adam and I had some great times over the years.  There were countless campouts, spades games, and basketball games in the loft of the barn.  To this day, I hope he knows how proud of him I am.
Adam's family became a second family to me as well.  I probably spent as much time at the Bennett house as I did at mine.  Mark, Linda and Jacob welcomed me as one of their own.  The memories I have at the Bennett farm are some of my most cherished.  But it was the lessons I learned from Mark that are still at the front of my mind today.
Mark Bennett was also my Sunday school teacher.  Every Sunday for six years I was privileged to learn at his feet.  To this day, Romans 12:1-2 is the first verse I read every morning, and the way I try to live my life: not conformed but transformed.  When Mark's father passed away last year I was saddened, but I rejoiced because I know this family and I am confidant where Mr. Marion is now.  That confidence is in part because of the countless hours that Mark invested in my spiritual development.
If Adam was the little brother I never had, then Joe Ritchal was my long lost twin.  Joe was in my grade and we were friends from the beginning but over the years our bond grew and he became one of my most cherished relationships.  We drove to school together, wrecked those cars together, and even left home together to start a new adventure at Oklahoma Christian (more on that in a future installment too).  I don't see much of Joe these days, but I hope he knows how much he means to me. I mean the man saved my life.
No one outside of my dad, my baseball coach, and myself know this.  There was a time that the depression had set in pretty hard in my sophomore year of high school.  I was contemplating ending my life.  At a crucial moment when I thought I was making the decision to just end it, Joe called me.  I was in my room staring at a sharp pocket knife wondering what it would be like to just slide it across my wrist and that call came.  He didn't want anything, but to come over and hang out.  When he came over we talked.  I never confessed to him what I was thinking of doing, but somehow I think he knew.  I remember him saying to me that he was glad we were buddies, and glad my family moved to McCune a few years back.
That's all it took.  The next day I went in to talk with my baseball coach (again, I'll get to him in a later installment) and got everything off my chest.  I ended up doing some more counseling that year and I think things turned out okay.  
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the McGown family.  Gary and Cheryl are awesome people.  I still call Cheryl mom.  They were great friends to my family and I have so many memories of going to their house to play Sequence.  Well, the adults played sequence.  I got to pretend I was cool because their son Mike would actually hang out with me.  Their daughter Donielle was closer to my sister's age and they were friends.  I thought they were both annoying in the early years.  What is really awesome though is that we all grow up.  Doni and I are kindred spirits now.  We both have children with developmental disabilities and I think we learn a lot from each other as we navigate those waters.
There were so many others at that little church who helped to shape me.  Ms. Grace made me butterscotch pudding every time we had a church dinner, and Ms. Marguerite sold me her 66 Chevy II. I still remember where everyone sat in that building.  I remember games of hide and seek in the dark.  I remember grape juice with floaties in it.  I remember mowing that yard and stealing the communion juice on my breaks.  I remember puppet shows for VBS and board games in the fellowship room.  And although I would eventually have to come into my own when it came to faith and belief, I remember the undying love and encouragement that met me at the doors of that church every week.  Most of all, I remember family.

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