Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)
TITLE: A BELT FULL OF BATONS
By Debbie Roome
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Impressions of warm wood and snowy lilies overwhelmed me. It didn’t seem possible that Grandpa lay in the casket in front of the church. The pastor was reading out the bare facts of his life and snippets penetrated my thoughts. “Bill Mansfield, born in Kentucky on October 12th, 1929. In 1948 he represented his country at the Olympics. Track Coach at Medfield High for 30 years. Died doing what he loved.”
It was only last week that we’d shared a shake at the local gym. Grandpa had been his normal enthusiastic self and chatted about a youngster he’d been training, the youth program he supported and the marathon he was preparing for. Dad received the call at three pm on Saturday. It was one of those calls that you knew were bad news by the tone of conversation. Dad had sat silent for a long moment before turning to us, his eyes damp. “It’s Grandpa. He’s gone. It seems he had a massive heart attack while out running.”
The pastor invited us to stand and join him in singing Grandpa’s favourite hymn. The crowd rustled and coughed as the song leader led the first line of How Great Thou Art. I cast a look over my shoulder. The church was full and extra seating had been brought in at the back. In spite of his age, Grandpa had not allowed himself to get old. He had friends in every age group and from every sphere of life and that was why I’d asked to speak at his funeral.
After the hymn, the pastor turned in my direction. “I’d like to call on Noah Mansfield to come and share a few words about his Grandfather.”
My palms were sweaty, my eyes blurry but I thought of Grandpa and the impact he’d had on my life. “Good afternoon. I’m honored to be here today. To share with you the story of my Grandpa’s life. ” My voice cracked slightly but I ignored it. “Grandpa was an athlete. A gifted athlete. Over the years he collected dozens of awards and trophies, but he always told me they weren’t important. He said the important thing was to run the race of our lives with perseverance. He believed God’s idea of a race wasn’t the same as ours. Yes, we must run to win, but to win, we need to bring others with us.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Grandpa loved relay races and that’s what I really want to talk about today. He told me he had a belt full of batons. Those batons were things we can all carry with us. A word of encouragement, a firm handshake, a $10 bill. Grandpa loved to look for opportunities to pass his batons on.” I looked across the crowded church. “I’m sure he passed them on to many of you.” A murmur of agreement rippled across the room and I felt tears welling up. My father slipped out of his seat and came and stood next to me, his hand on my shoulder, giving me courage to continue. “But a baton is no good if we keep it to ourselves. The whole idea of a relay is to keep the baton moving. What have we done with what my Grandpa passed on to us? Have we kept it to ourselves or have we shared it with those around us? His whole motivation was to live for God and I want to challenge you today. Grandpa is gone. His race is finished. But somehow, as he goes to be with his Lord, I see him running one last time, a belt full of batons stretched out toward us. My question is; what will we do with them?”
There was silence as I took my seat and then a middle aged woman stood. “Bill fixed my porch for free when I was unemployed. I’ve been meaning to volunteer at our local soup kitchen but never got round to it. I’m going to go there this afternoon.” I sat quietly as story after story was shared and promises and offers made. Grandpa was gone, but his belt full of batons remained and would continue to impact our lives and those of many around us.
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