Mitchell Richards [Words]

Why Baseball Is Like Life, And Why That Sucks.

I really don’t care for baseball much. I love sports in general, and stay informed with the headlines of most all sports, but as for sitting down and watching an entire baseball game, I can’t say I have done that in years.

Baseball is sort of boring to watch. Not a lot of action spread out over a great deal of time.

Today I realized that life is a lot like baseball, which is probably why I’m not a big fan of either one.

Baseball seems like the only job in America where if you succeed about 30% of the time (see also batting averages) you’re the best at your job. In my job at the paper, I’d be fired if I only did 30% of an article. Elite baseball players are paid millions of dollars to succeed 30% of the time and lower.

But then again, baseball is a lot like life.

I remember playing baseball, and the only thing I enjoyed about it was running bases and catching pop flies. Unfortunately, to run bases you had to get on base and that meant batting, which I hated.

I didn’t really understand as a kid how the odds of getting a hit were not in my favor. I remember crying almost every time I struck out. I just wasn’t used to not being able to succeed at something every time.

Baseball, like life, is about how you deal with the failures and struggles. Odds to succeed are stacked against you in both things, and I suppose it’s about getting back up to bat and seeing if you’ll strike out again. Baseball is about bouncing back.

Baseball is a lot like life because the possibility of failure is always there and imminent, and the odds of succeeding are less than the odds failing.

I do believe that life isn’t about succeeding as much as it is about failing. I don’t think you can truly appreciate success without the inevitability of failure. In fact, I don’t think you can truly have success without failure. Failure is the necessity, the cause and the effect, of desire. I’ve heard the opposite of love isn’t hate, but rather indifference, and accepting failure is the evidence of not being indifferent.

Baseball is also a lot like life in the way that there is a lot of standing around waiting for things to happen. You never really know when I ball is going to be hit your way, and you don’t get to bat every inning, but success is determined on how you respond when incidents and moments come your way. In life, we will not always meet these moments and incidents with great plays and spectacular catches, we may fall on our faces actually, but the beauty of baseball and life is that you’re still in the game. If you drop a pop fly, your job is not done, you still have to make the most of the opportunity that life has dealt you. You still have to throw the ball in. You can still make a play.

I used to cry when I struck out in baseball because I thought I was terrible at baseball and striking out was only proof of that. Of all the years I played baseball I remember two things specifically. Once was when I caught a ball in the outfield that made me flip over, and the other was when I slide into home plate and collided with the catcher, resulting in hurting my knee that still clicks and cracks on cold days.

Like life, we win some and we lose some, but we have stories to tell regardless and an obligation to tell them. Stories of victories come and go and you won’t hit a homerun every time you are up to bat, and often times stories are of pain and hard times, but they are still apart of our story.

I assume the better we are at going through life, the more opportunities we get to succeed and fail at it. Some days I’m out in right field, looking at the empty seats in the stadium, but other games I’m playing pitcher and my arm is about to fall off but I have to keep going.

Life isn’t about hitting a homerun every time, it’s about how we deal with it when we don’t. It’s about how we deal with striking out, dropping the ball, and slamming into the catcher. Life is about striking out and batting again when it’s your turn again. It’s about dropping the ball and picking it up and still trying to salvage the play. It’s about slamming into the catcher and stomping on home plate because you made it home.

My Seventeen Magazine Tells Me…

Scanning around social media the other day, I came across someone’s posting of a picture of the Seventeen Magazine they had just purchased.  It was your stereotypical magazine-geared-toward-teenage-girls cover: a couple of young attractive girls, neon colors, way too many headlines promising tips for perfect hair and “825 ways to look pretty.”  Of course, I have no problem with any of this; it’s the social norm.  However, plastered at the bottom of the cover, the main headline reads in all caps: Get everything you want this year (and in smaller print right under that) great body, tons of $$$, amazing clothes + mega confidence.

 

I’m so glad the Bible isn’t made up like a preteen girls magazine, but I often feel as though we treat it that way.

 

Usually at some point in the calendar year, I really sit down and wonder what I want from my current chapter of life.  Years ago, these self-reflections involved finding jobs that paid me more money and finding a wife.  These goal-setting sessions often used terms like “settling down” and “I want [this] to happen.”  Life for me was once all about acquiring.  Life was about wanting and the pursuit of acquiring those wants.  Life was about getting what I thought I wanted. Now they are handled quite differently.

 

Apparently, a year a half ago that mentality changed. On a whim, I decided to coach little kids soccer and it has been such a blessing.  It’s not easy though.  If you would have asked me two years ago, in all seriousness, what my thoughts on young children were I would have told you I wanted nothing to do with them.  Kids freak me out. I always just imagine young kids with spaghetti all over their mouths, defiant to everyone around them, and still wetting the bed.  So when I volunteered to coach 6 and 7 year olds, I wasn’t really sure why I even wanted to.

 

Now, after multiple seasons with a lot of the same kids, everything has changed.  The change has nothing to do with soccer though and everything to do with the acquiring mentality…

 

Life was not meant to be acquired…life was meant to be given away.

 

Since starting coaching, I’ve realized my life is actually worth something, I’ve realized that I have something to offer to the rest of the world, and that something is NOT soccer.  I used to sit in my apartment and do nothing all day.  I wasn’t in school; I just worked and did nothing else.  My life had nothing to offer because I was busy trying to acquire. Now, it is worth something because I’m giving it away.

 

Since coaching, life has not become any easier; in fact I’ve made it a lot more difficult. I started school again and I’m a full time student.  I work two jobs.  And soccer season is just about to start up again and so is school and my finances and time will be stretched to the limit.  But one thing I won’t do is stop coaching these kids.

 

Since coaching, I’ve also become an uncle again two times over.  My brother and his wife adopted their son Rance from Ukraine and they just recently had another son, Carden.  Meeting them all for the first time, and this time with the outlook that life is to be given, not taken, changes my entire outlook of what it means to be in a family and to be an uncle.  I got to hang out with Rance a month or so ago at a camp and all I could think about was how much I wanted to be a better man for this kid. He’s 8 years old, and conscious of what I do, as opposed to say a baby who doesn’t even look at me or know my name. This idea that I have something in my life to offer to the world applies greatly to my nephews and the rest of my family.  If I want them to know me in one way it is that I am their uncle who would lay down his life for them because that’s what life is all about, that is what love is all about.  They would never get that vibe from me if I were sitting in my apartment all day experiencing boredom firsthand.  They’d think that their uncle was just a quiet crazy man who only came around on holidays.

 

But I’m not that person, and the only reason I know this is because I have something to give…my life.  When your life becomes about acquiring and taking, when it becomes “what can I get from life” that means you’re doing it all wrong.  I’ve learned in the last year and a half that you can have nothing and laugh more than you ever have in your life.  I’ve learned what it means to be broke and what it means to have everything.  I’ve learned that my life is not only to be shared with everyone around me, but also given to them.  The more I hold back for myself, the less I have to give to the people I love.  The difference between villains and heroes in movies and comics and stories is that the villain wants to acquire, the hero wants to give.

 

The last 6 months of my life were some of the hardest and busiest months I’ve ever had, but nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about life being easy.  The Bible doesn’t have neon headlines telling that you can get everything you want in life and from God if you follow these simple steps.  It doesn’t tell you that if you look hard enough at the red words you’ll find the hidden meaning to life and the way to stop sinning.  The difference now is that I understand that this busyness is a good busyness because it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the people around me.  Life isn’t easy right now, but I don’t care because it is good.  I’m living the best years of my life right now, and nothing has chanced from 2 years ago when I was depressed and angry at life, nothing except my outlook on acquiring and giving.

 

The Bible, however, does say that you shouldn’t worry about the acquiring mentality, but instead to worry about Jesus and to follow his example, his example that only says one thing: give yourself away.

Life, Not “Like” [or] People, Not Pixels

Years ago, I had this knack for making my own shirts. I would buy that special paper you could print and iron on to a shirt and make them myself. I had, what I thought, were some pretty great ones. Keep in my, I was young and was still into sophomoric humor, but I made a ton of shirts that said, “Poop on Satan” and sold them to my friends.

A few prints later, I made one for myself that simply said, “Shut Down Your Xanga.”

Before Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, there was Xanga. A little blog sharing and social media website that apparently I was pretty obsessed with. I remember shutting it down because of what people were using it for, as a soapbox for their problems and frustrations.

Now, this is all sort of awkward to talk about because chances are you ended up here by way of social media, probably not Xanga, but maybe somewhere else.

The more and more I immerse myself in social media, I find myself wanting to get out of it. I see a lot of people using these tools meant to bring people together and keep them connected, to destroy that very purpose. I see gossip and fighting, I see people complaining and whining about mundane things. It really drives me nuts.

I use social media as an expression outlet, usually for jokes and creative projects such as my writings and things. Others use it for…well…I don’t know really.

And probably the worst problem of all is that people constantly use social media. We all have our phones set up to notify us when something happens in that world.

To me, there is a definitive line between our social media connections and what is actually happening in real life, and those things should be separated as much as possible. You shouldn’t be updating your status as life is happening around you. You shouldn’t be eating a wonderful meal with friends and telling people about it, you should be enjoying that moment…right then…with those people…right there…and not be worried about the people who aren’t there.

It is okay to share these memories and moments on social media outlets, but it is not okay to miss these moments because of social media outlets or your desire to use them while thriving in real life.

You shouldn’t be watching the sunset and talking about it, you should be watching the sunset and shutting up about it.

We can’t live life with our heads down, looking at the screens in the palms of our hands as life continues to move around us.

If the Bible is right when it says that this life is a vapor evaporating, how are we spending it? How are we sharing and separating the vapor life that is real from the digital life that is not?

I don’t know how much time you spend on social media, but chances are you’re missing out on the things happening all around you.

You cannot click a “like” or “retweet” button when things in life are beautiful, but you can still share them with the people around you. You shouldn’t be complaining about your mundane life writing from the glow of a screen.

I don’t remember a time I looked out to the ocean, or watched a sunrise and ever thought my life was going nowhere, that it was all meaningless. But I can show you some backlogs of some writings that would suggest otherwise.

Life is to be lived, not “liked.” It is to be shared with the few around you. Because this life is (get ready for a cliché) the only one we have, and we can’t just let it go by as we waste our time away complaining and looking at other people’s baby pictures.

[Insert paragraph about how no one cares about your cats.]

I’m not saying you should go out and shut down all of your social media sites and blogs and things, but I would like to issue you a challenge: delete the apps from your phone, just for a week or so, and realize how often you go to you phone just to check it. Delete your bookmarks and quick links on your computer, so you have to realize every time you start typing http://www.facebo…

You might surprise yourself how often you check these things.

But what is happening here usually is that your aren’t going to Facebook to check what your friends are saying as often as you are going to Facebook to see what your friends have said about something you said earlier or to see how many people “liked” it.

Maybe as you go through a couple days without social media, maybe you call in to a friend and see how they are doing. Hell, write a letter to someone just to tell them, as a person and not as a group of pixels on a screen, they mean something to you.

Watch a sunrise and don’t tweet about it.

Enjoy a meal and don’t take a picture of it.

Play with your 50 cats and don’t brag about it.

Share time with someone; connect with someone in a real way.

Get off the grid.

Live, don’t “like.”

To Make God Laugh

I told my friend the other day that I wish I could write about God more humorously. I told him that I love writing about God and I love making people laugh, but see those qualities and exclusively separate. Since I was kid, the being of God and the following train of religion was always something I took pretty seriously.

Maybe it was the way the old organ and piano played on Sunday morning when I walked in to my church. I always just sort of felt a reverence for God and worshipping him and it was never to be taken lightly.

I think of myself as a pretty humorous person, I like writing jokes and have fun in witty banter with people, but I very rarely joke about God, and if I do it is so veiled most people don’t even catch it.

What this all boils down to is that I am not myself around God, a God I claim as an important part of my life.

For example, when I was younger I used to want to work on cartoons and be a voice actor. I loved doing accents and making noises with my mouth. Every once in a while, these accents will sneak out in every day life. I switched into what I call my Godfather voice to one of the girls on the soccer team I coach and she responded in her own mafia style voice. It was great.

But all this made me think of how rarely I communicate with God, and even when I do, I would never do a voice or an accent in his presence. I don’t do this because there are no jokes in the Bible, and no parts where it says “And then Peter responded to Jesus as if he were British and said ‘that’s what Mary said.’”

I hate the idea of God as friend, so this goes beyond that to a place where I am not even myself around my creator.

I can’t even be the person he made me to be around the person who made me be the way that I am. (That was a fun sentence to write)

I am giving God a cheapened version of his creation, of myself, and that is really sad to think about. Obviously, I don’t think I could ever pray to God in an accent, but I really don’t even feel like I am myself around him or by the way I talk about him. How often do I joke around with him? How often to I joke about him?

When people first meet me, they get the impression that I am quiet and reserved. This is sort of true, but I really just take a little time to warm up to you, to get a feel for you. When I start to get comfortable around people, I start to joke with them, I start to converse more, and so on. But early on, my shyness and quietness scare people off because they think I’m homeschooled or a postal worker or something.

Some days I feel like God and I never really had the chance to talk, like maybe I am just still awkward and shy around him because he hasn’t revealed himself to me, he’s never told me about his true nature. And so I’m scared when I see God be quiet because I’m afraid he hates me or something, I’m afraid he is no nonsense and not in the mood to joke around, and that even if he were, he wouldn’t get my jokes.

I don’t want to be this way with him, I don’t want to be shy because I know he isn’t shy either.

Sometimes I do random and stupid things with my life and think that God is up there crying because I’m an idiot. But I also think that more often than not, he’s crying tears from laughing his ass off because I’m an idiot too.

I believe that the way I am, cheerful and happy, easy going and joking, is truly the way God made me and the way God wants me to be for everyone else. I really feel that I have a gift to make others laugh.

Now, if I could only act that way around God. Am I taking him too seriously? I would like to make God laugh and I want to feel comfortable around him. I want my Godfather voice to slip out one of these days, only to have God respond with his mock-Okie accent, never missing a beat.

Beacon

Like many of us flies, I don’t have much time to tell you this story. It’s the story of your great-great-great, and a few more greats grandfather. His name was Beacon and I was told his story by my father when I was young, and him by his father, and you must tell your children this story or else it will be lost forever.

Beacon was a rare fly in the way he claimed to be self-actualized, meaning he knew who he was and where he came from and his purpose. He had a bigger picture of life and death, bigger than we can ever hope to have. He knew what we, our people, were and why we are here at this place, but it wasn’t something he ever shared with us. You see, Beacon was aware of everything going on around us, not just us flies.

One day, Beacon was searching for food for his family and his curiosity landed him inside of a car. The man who owned the car was a slob, and Beacon often found easy food here in the bags of leftover fast food the man jammed into his backseat. Beacon was making trips back and forth with food for his family, but he didn’t notice the owner of the car get into it. Beacon zipped through the window into the car just as the driver rolled up the window and drove off.

Beacon was separated from his family and friends and had no idea where he was going. Being the smart fly that he was, he had been in this circumstance before and knew that if he just stayed in the car he would return to his home and family eventually. However, after hours of driving Beacon became suspicious. The drive never ended it seemed. There was never the sensation of turning around and heading home, and when the driver stopped to get gas, your ancestor peaked through the window to see an unfamiliar land of lights and other cars and other people.

The driver got back into his car as Beacon remained hopeful that home was the next destination, but it wasn’t. The driver continued to drive in the opposite direction. He drove through the night and just as the sun began to rise, Beacon woke up to the car stopped and parked. It didn’t move for a long time and he had no way of getting out. The car was cold, much colder than the air of his home.

The driver never returned to his car. Beacon was not starved for food because of the garbage in the car, but he had to get out to find out where he was. He longed for his family, but had no sense of direction as to which way they were or how far away. Beacon somehow squeezed through a small crack in the window as the air outside blew him sideways. This stop was much different than the car rides he had been on in the days before, it was unfamiliar.

Beacon flew as high as he could to see if he could see anything familiar. The car was parked on a bridge overlooking a river, but the familiar sights and smells of home were nowhere to been found. He flew back into the car because it was the only shred of familiarity that he had left.

Somehow, my children, we were all born from this. We are far from our home. This place, this place where we eat and sleep, it is not our home. Only Beacon knows the way home, but he is long since gone. So when you can’t sleep at night because your mind is racing, young ones, realize that it is racing because this place you sleep is not the place we are supposed to be. Right here is not home. We are far from home.

Many of you will leave this place and chase your real home and I will never know if you find it, but, my children, you must continue to chase. Find where you belong, for this place is not where you are from and it is not where you are supposed to be.

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