It is a fact that was loudly shouted every time he entered the four square arena.
Through the 2000s, the decade in which the Royals went 733 – 1,049, I was a youth minister and worship leader in Lee’s Summit at a church that no longer exists. Almost every week, the youth group played four square. The purpose of the game was simple: to have fun together. There were sibling rivalries and pacts made between friends. There were times younger kids were introduced to the game with compassion and times younger kids frequented the back of the line. At the end of every game, everyone was in good spirits, with smiles on faces and elevated pulses and sweat dripping from brows. I am convinced that playing four square was an integral part of faith development.
Nash was one of the few southpaws in the group. Just like a left-footed punter imparts a different spin in football, a left-handed four-squarer imparts a different spin when hitting the red rubber ball — tip of the hat to Kevin Carroll’s wonderful book. So, when Nash stepped in to the first square, the group quickly grew accustomed to shouting out, “Nash is a lefty!” to remind ourselves to stay alert.
Nash and I remained friends once he graduated high school and started college. We worked on a book together, Jesus is for Losers, which was bought by a publishing house who immediately started working a marketing plan for it, then returned the manuscript later unpublished. “It’s not the right time for this book.” I still disagree.
In 2018, Nash was my last catch partner of the year. Nash works at the library in KC — I love libraries so much — and couldn’t get off work for the community game of catch in the mud and slush and snow.
“Got time for one more game of catch?” he texted just a couple hours before midnight. With the high beam lights from the Bryan Family Millennium Falcon blazing and Christmas lights hanging from the gutters of Jake’s house turned on, he and I played catch. He had to borrow my glove for lefties.
In 2019, Nash worked on his musical dreams with his band Tiny Escalators.**A few weeks ago, he and his dad drove through Springfield and Nash gave my family a copy of his new CD. The folksy trio consists of Nash on acoustic guitar and vocals, Melinda on violin and vocals, and Mark playing percussion on just about anything. (I love that Mark is always pictured wearing something representing the Royals.) Sophie and I have been listening to the CD on our morning commutes to school and our homeward-bound commutes after swim practice.
We absolutely love it. We sing along and discuss lyrics and enjoy the harmonies and simple instrumentations.
Music is a gift. It’s a form of play and therapy. As Karl Paulnack said welcoming students to Boston Conservatory years ago, “Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.”
I am so glad Kaylea chose to attend Missouri State University. Attending her phenomenal concerts this fall has been good for my soul. (I wonder if the symphony orchestra would be willing to collaborate on a book launch?)
As we grow up and become inundated with all the necessities of life — bills and car maintenance and laundry — we too often stop singing. We grow incredibly self-conscious of our voices and never sing in public, whether at stadiums or churches or community concerts. We fear being embarrassed or out of tune, comparing our voices to those who have trained for years and perform professionally. We judge ourselves not good enough.
One of the central themes of Jesus is for Losers comes from the writings of Paul. “We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.”
In his remarkable text Play, Stuart Brown wrote, “When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play?”
I was at the grocery store for the thirtieth time this week. As I stood in the checkout line, I tuned in to the Christmas carol that was playing on the overhead speakers and started quietly singing. The lady behind me joined in. I did not dare belt out the high note at the end of the song, instead singing a note multiple octaves lower, and she started laughing.
“I was hoping you’d go for it,” she said.
“Next time we sing together, I will.”
Go ahead and sing, please, for the good of your health and the joy of those around you.
I’ve already submitted my request for a Tiny Escalators baseball song. In the meantime, you can learn more about their music here.
**Nash’s entire family is creatively gifted. His mom, Erin, is a genius of environmental care and inspiring the next generation as a teacher. His dad, Steve, is a remarkable artist in several media and skilled on computers. He was Sophie’s first art teacher. His sister, Katrina, is a first-rate stand-up comedienne and wonderful writer.