For a 16-year-old boy nuzzled in such a confined location as Key West, Fla., it was indeed an adventure to travel “all the way” north to Jacksonville during the summer of 1964. Particularly if it involved the “Pony League” Baseball State Tournament where our team was considered one of the favorites. After winning the first game, we were pitted against Fort Myers, a squad we were supposed to handle easily, yet despite my offensive contribution, we were defeated in extra innings. As we awaited in the locker room the next game of the loser’s bracket in a double elimination affair, the recent bitter defeat escaped me, and I began to “joke around,” as was, and is, my custom. Then I felt the strong hand of Bill Cates on my shoulder as he literally lifted me off the ground and took me to an adjacent room. There, my mentor and coach curtly advised me that there was nothing funny about losing to an inferior team, and although I would be suiting up for the next game, I would not participate in any shape or form in the contest.
Profoundly embarrassed and ashamed, I apologized profusely to the team. He replaced me with a much less talented guy, yet the team rose to the occasion and emerged victorious. Allowed back in the lineup for the last two games, we were able to sweep the competition and left the city as champions. As we rode the old school bus back to the Keys with the trophy in tow, Mr. Cates and I had a long conversation in the back of the vehicle about teamwork, dedication and leadership, among others. Bill Cates was like a second father to me, and his teachings have served me well until this day…..”Cates Cared.”
A foreign land
Which brings me to last week when the publisher of this newspaper, my wife and I spent five days in “a foreign land.” We have been active during the past few years in a unique international wheelchair ministry which provides custom made chairs primarily for children who will never be ambulatory. We have been privileged to serve the underprivileged and needy throughout different parts of the world by supplying transportation and freedom of movement to those facing a stationary and stunted existence. As the ministry has flourished, so have its financial burdens, thus our continual efforts to find additional funding sources. So we sojourned to Branson, Mo., a unique wholesome entertainment mecca nestled in the Ozark Mountains, where its leaders, theatre owners and business folks adopted our ministry. There we were able to display our paraphernalia, to include wheelchairs and a means of easily contributing on site. The outburst of genuine support throughout Branson for this worthwhile ministry was truly overwhelming, something we have seldom experienced. The citizenry showed unusual empathy and concern for a great cause. The name chosen for this endeavor certainly is apropos…..”Branson Cares.”
I am “old school,” in fact, I am just plain old; therefore, many of my remarks find little sanctuary in today’s rhetoric. Receiving an award for “participating” in a competition is rather foreign to me. The value of learning how to deal with losing, deciphering ways to win and giving credit to your opponent when applicable are at the heart of my “success.” Awarding participatory trophies to youth only exacerbates the concept that “just showing up” is good enough. Well, it’s not; hard times are commensurate to growth, and reflection and intentionality are oftentimes the common denominator to success.
Bill Cates did not waste the opportunity to take me from participation to intentionality and thus he truly cared by craftily underscoring that we must face the consequences of our actions. The good people of Branson care, and again went beyond participating to contributing, be it their space, time and/or resources for the noble cause of physically raising the downtrodden from the ground and giving them mobility so they can themselves not only participate but likewise contribute. So I ask myself; what if Jesus came to earth only to participate? What if he just “hung” with the apostles instead of hanging on a cross? What if he just chatted with the Father instead of praying to Him? What if He concurred rather than redeem? Well, Jesus hung on my behalf, intercedes to the Father for me and redeemed me for His glory. Now, that’s intentionality……CHRIST cares!
Read more articles by Omar Aleman at: goodnewsfl.org/author/omar-aleman/