The calling of a musician is not acoustic perfection. The calling of a musician is to use their gifts and abilities to create melodies and harmonies, a soundtrack that will inspire, heal, and give strength to our cluttered hearts and anxious minds. The calling of a musician is to communicate to us in ways greater than mere words can express, echoing divine languages.
The calling of an artist is not visual perfection. The calling of an artist is to teach us to feel and to see. The calling of an artist is to help us break through the monotonous, misguided assumptions of daily life and see beauty and wonder, mystery and miracles in every aspect of life, to recognize the in-breaking of heaven on earth.
The calling of a teacher is to awaken curiosity within their students.
The calling of an automobile mechanic is to encourage adventure and exploration, providing reliable transportation for their customers to boldly go wherever their hearts desire.
The calling of a storyteller is to engage imaginations and impart empathy through narratives.
The calling of a pastor is to teach that Love is the strongest power in the universe, and that we know what love is by how we treat other people, whether or not we agree with them or look like them or sound like them.
The calling of a cashier at any grocery store, fast food franchise, clothing or hardware or video game store AND the calling of any customer at any of those same establishments is to treat others the way you would like to be treated.
What about baseball players?
Do they have callings?
I believe so.
But, the calling of a ballplayer is not related to how hard they can throw a ball, how far they can hit a ball, or how fast they can run the bases. The calling of a ballplayer will not be reflected in the numbers on the back of a baseball card or the numbers to the left of the decimal point on their paycheck. The calling of a ballplayer does not change if the team is in first or last place.
The calling of a ballplayer is to bring people together.
In the dugout, ballplayers do whatever is necessary to help the gifted individuals wearing the same uniform embrace their identity as part of a team. The best ballplayers are the best teammates, period.
During the game, while ballplayers share their gifts and talents on the field, people in the stands talk to whomever is seated nearby. I’ve had the privilege of meeting a former ball boy for the Yankees, the siblings of a pitcher for the visiting team, and a grandmother taking her granddaughter to her very first game. The conversations in the stands are often centered around those on the field, creating serendipitous connections. The Yankees fan and I were both amazed by Mike Sweeney.
When the team wins, joys are multiplied throughout the stands. Strangers exchange celebratory high fives and cheers. Winning teams are great for the community. (For example, look at the greater KC metro area in 2014-2015.)
When the team loses, sorrows are shared. Misery does love company. (For example, look at Royals Twitter in 2022.)
A kid getting an autograph or souvenir from his favorite player, fans wearing the same t-shirt jersey, the conversation between ballplayers on opposing teams that happens on the bases – all ways ballplayers help bring people together. When Aaron Judge or Mike Trout plays catch with a kid in the stands in between innings. When you learn the story of Jose Cuas, from FedEx delivery driver to making his major-league debut. When players meet fans through various community and charity efforts.
Because the calling of a ballplayer is to bring people together, I think that’s why I still think of myself as a ballplayer, even though my primary ball-playing activity is just playing catch. Playing catch brings people together, too.
In this world filled with loneliness and exclusion, where people loudly draw lines declaring, “You are not like me!”, or worse, “You are less than me!”, playing catch is a simple way of being with another person and affirming, “Life shared is life celebrated.”
And it’s in those catch-playing conversations where connections are made, friendships are formed, and the space between heaven and earth becomes a little thinner.