My dad worked as a full time missionary living off support from people who believed in what he was doing. He spent most of his time being a missionary in our neighborhood through sports. He'd go to schools and organize sports after school for kids that wanted to play. Westminster, CA wasn't the greatest neighborhood, although I was oblivious, so my dad believed that telling kids about Jesus could have a huge impact on the area. As men go, my dad is one of those rare breeds. Handsome, athletic, intelligent, but totally and honestly humble. He has spent all of his adult life trying to do one thing and one thing alone. Tell people about Jesus. He's done it from Santa Anna, California to Irkutsk, Russia. If you were to count I bet you would find thousands of people who ended up hearing about the amazing love of God through my dad, yet he would consider himself small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Amazing. I had a front row seat to it my whole life and it wasn't until I was in my twenties I realized the kind of man he was and still is. In southern California he would set up these sports for kids to come, play and have fun. At half time of whatever sport we were playing that day he'd give all the kids some knock off version of Oreos that I still laugh at when I see them in the grocery store and talk about the God that he loved so much. This was his method. It started with sports and ended with Jesus.
There are things about your parents that you don't really appreciate until you are older and living on your own. My dad is a gold mine for those realizations. One of which is his extreme thriftiness. Most of the time we would play normal sports like baseball or basketball, but every now and then he would want to change things up. Enter "field hockey", but not the field hockey you know with the plaid skirts and goalies that look like transformers. The field hockey where my dad made all fifty sticks out of PVC pipes, the most intense glue in the history of time, some electrical tape and a few pieces of foam padding. THAT type of field hockey. Give fifty hispanic, vietnamese and three white kids (my siblings and I) a bunch of those sticks and let them run around a field chasing a soccer ball. That was a lot of my childhood.
When it wasn't "Field Hockey" it was Buffalo Ball. Two giant tubes of PVC pipe with a basketball on top. "Okay kids, you want to throw this small ball back and forth to each other and then try to knock that basketball off the PVC pipe. Don't worry at halftime you'll get "Oreos."
I still laugh when I think about my little body running around a field with a huge head and a bowl cut trying to throw a ball to knock off another ball while young Manny Pacquiao and Jet Lee chased me. Terrifying, exhilarating and 100% a product of my old man.
When I think back on those days in the Schmidt school field it feels like it was a hundred years ago, but I still have these very vivid memories of my dad. He would wear a flat brim hat, before flat brims were cool, an old t-shirt and shorts that always seemed to short with a whistle in his mouth coaching, yelling and encouraging kids. While his goal was always to use sports to tell kids about Jesus he still wanted the sports to be played well. He was a stickler for the rules, he called fouls, he let one team lose and one team win. If you fell, scrapped your knees and started to cry he wouldn't rush over or stop everything from going on. He would tell you to shake it off, keep going or if you needed to sit on the sideline until you were ready to go again. He wasn't a fan of participation ribbons. He enjoyed celebrating winners and challenging losers to work harder, run faster and try so they could feel the joy and pride of claiming a prize that was earned.
I get the sense that kids aren't being raised like this anymore. Everyone is a winner and we all get medals, but then we graduate high school and college and have to realize that life isn't really like that. While youth sports may celebrate everyone with a participation trophy, life does not. Life is hard, rough and a lot of times a really raw deal. It punches you in the mouth, doesn't apologize and then spits on you when you hit the ground. I know we want our kids to feel important, competent and loved but sometimes we need to let them get chased in a game of buffalo ball and have their throw fall incredibly short and off target. I really appreciate my dad for letting me have quite a bit of that in my childhood. He was good at letting all of his kids take their licks, but yet had the magical touch of compassion when it was most needed. I think there is a lot of tension in that and to live it out takes some trial and error but I think it's better to live there then in the "let's praise them for every step they take" area.
I think we need a revival of that old school, shake it off mentality. If we don't start incorporating it, I believe we are going to look back and wish we had. Let's let winners win and losers lose because it might just be the loss that propels someone to greatness.
I am twenty-eight years old with two successful businesses, a few employees and an amazing wife. I praise God daily for His provision in my life, but I also thank my dad for teaching me how to take a hit, shake it off and get back in the fight.