Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Ballpark Prayer

 


It felt like the worst kind of dream. One minute three-year old Eddie was playing on the playground, and the next he was gone. 

We were at Calvin's baseball game, and I had turned away just long enough to watch him bat. After he rounded the bases I turned back to Eddie, but couldn't see him. 

I scanned the monkey bars, but he wasn't there. The swings. The slide. The sandpit.  

I stood from the bleachers and walked closer, trying not to run, but my heart was starting to pound. What color was his shirt? Light blue. Light blue, light blue. I glanced back at the bleachers. Surely he would be there. The snack bar? The drinking fountain? 

I called out to Jack, who couldn't seen him either. It was getting harder to breathe. Has anyone seen a little boy? Light blue shirt? Now I'm running.  

Several minutes pass and I'm starting to cause a scene. Kind strangers get up to look. Little boy. Light blue shirt. 

Another several minutes, an eternity, and an announcement comes over the intercom. All games are suspended, says the voice. We need everyone's help. Little boy, light blue shirt. Players leave their positions. 

People are calling Eddie's name all around me, and I drop to my knees. Jack, seeing my panic, grabs our other kids and brings them to me. 

"Calvin," he says. "We need you to say a prayer." Little Calvin, fresh dirt on his baseball pants, removes his hat. Hurry Calvin, I think.

Instead, a long pause. "Dear Heavenly Father," he finally begins. "We are so thankful for this day. We're thankful for our many blessings."

I open my eyes and look at him. Faster Calvin, I silently plead.

"We're thankful for our health, and that we live in a free country." Let's be thankful for them later, I whisper. He carries on as though we're sitting around the Thanksgiving table, and not at the center of a frantic search.

"Please bless those who are less fortunate than us." WE are less fortunate Calvin. Get to the point I am begging you. 

Above his voice, I hear of chorus of voices calling Eddie's name. Cal, meanwhile, has suddenly become Enos.

Finally, after mentioning everything from the food we have to eat to his last inning, he concludes with a plea that Eddie be found. "Amen." he says. "Amen." repeat the other kids.

And then, a moment later, Eddie. 

A man is leading him toward us from an adjacent parking lot. It turns out that he had had wandered to the point he was lost, then kept wandering and wandering. There's panic in his face too. 

I am overcome. So relieved. So grateful. So embarrassed. 

The games resume and I pretend to watch but all I want to do is bury a hole under the pitchers mound and hide in it. 

It's days, in fact, before I can stop obsessively replaying the events and what ifs. What if things had turned out worse? What if we never found him? Why did I look away? What were people thinking? When I'm finally able to settle and reflect, an image emerges in my mind. It's not of Eddie, but of Calvin and myself on opposite ends of a continuum.

On the one side is Calvin. He is faith. On the other side is me. I am works. 

While I had put all my energy into the effort required to find Eddie, Cal had relied entirely on a higher power. I would love to have had his faith in that moment, but we both had good intentions and I believe that, ideally, we fall somewhere in the middle. 

I think that's what James meant when he wrote that "Faith without works is dead," or Saint Augustine, who said, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." 

Before every game since that night, I said a silent prayer that Eddie would be safe. And then I never kept my eyes off him. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A Brother Like No Other

(Written by my mother Susan Foutz,
who would like to clarify that she actually has two brothers like no other )


If you lived in Arizona in the 80s, 90s or 2000s, Kent Dana was probably in your home every night at 6 and 10 p.m., reporting the news. To many he was a famous local anchor but to me, he was my beloved big brother. Being the fifth of seven children, I sometimes fought for recognition in a large family. Kent was definitely the antidote for that. 


Back row, left to right - Reed, Carol, Kent, Judy, Susan
Bottom row - Marilyn, Joe, Kathleen, Dora 

A favorite early memory of Kent, is of him at the helm of our family boat. I was always in the far back with the biggest, most reliable life jacket available, shaking with fear that any minute we would capsize and our family would be lost to Saguaro Lake. I have never been a lover of water sports like most of my siblings, and prefer hiking on solid ground in the mountains of Greer, Arizona, our family's favorite vacation spot. 

On one trip to the lake, Kent announced that it was time for me to learn to water ski. No thank you, was my response. But Kent was a master of persuasion, and when it came to teaching skiing he had a perfect record. Before I could resist, he was in the water with me, adjusting the skis. After dozens and dozens of tries, and me swallowing gallons of lake water, he told me we were not leaving until I was able to stay up. Lo and behold, I finally got up. My self esteem soared, and I have never stopped bragging that I can ski despite my water anxiety. 

Kent always make me feel important. When he was in Uruguay on a Church mission he would frequently write letters just to me. I still have each one. 


The following is an excerpt from one of my favorites - 

"I want to propose a plan. When I get home, you will be 16 and a half and well into your social life. From what I predict, you will be quite a beautiful young lady. As you know, your big brother will be quite out of it as far as dating manners, latest dance steps, where to go, etc., so I want to ask your help. I want to take you out before anyone else so you can correct me in my blundering. I will be a social left foot and will need up to date advice, will you do it?" 

He was always a loyal cheerleader in my life, and could bring light to any dark day with his contagious laugh and optimistic outlook. 

In April of 1973, Kent called me to announce the birth of his third child, a daughter, and said her name would be Susan. As tears flowed, my husband thought there had been a tragedy, when actually, I had just received the greatest compliment. 

In the early 90s, he was interviewed by the Arizona Republic.


The reporter asked him, “What is your most memorable meal?” and he answered -  

“A holiday meal at my sister Susan’s house. She invited all our siblings and their spouses over. She put on a feast and a demonstration that I have never even seen in a restaurant. She went above and beyond, she blew us away.” 

He may have been prone to exaggeration but he sure knew how to make his little sister have a good day. Actually, he knew how to make everyone have a good day. 

He even lifted me up on the very worst day of my life. On November 11, 2002, my beloved husband Jim suddenly passed away. Kent immediately left the news station and was the first to arrive at the hospital. I will never forget the bear hug he gave me and the tears he shed with me. I think that was the moment I knew that somehow I might survive. 

In the twenty years since, his phone calls and support have lifted me up and helped me go on. Kent’s compassion and kindness was unparalleled. I will always be grateful for the joy he brought to my life, and his unwavering love and support.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Remembering Uncle Kent


I always felt lucky to have a childhood hero who happened to be my uncle. After he passed away last night, I went through my memory box and found this.




It was a playdate at the park with my cousins that doubled as a photo shoot. Our smiles are genuine because we knew that time with Uncle Kent always ended with a trip to Baskin Robbins.


He was constantly doing favors for his nieces and nephews - all 37 of us. Visits to the studio, appearances in student government campaign videos, celebrity introductions. Once he even arranged to land a helicopter at my elementary school. No matter how busy he was, Kent always took our phone calls, and never hesitated to say yes.

I pulled this article out of my memory box this morning, and it made me smile. His answers perfectly encapsulate his wit, and I especially love the first line:

“Kent Dana is more than Channel 12’s TV news anchor. He is also the kind of Dad every kid wishes for at one time or another. He possesses a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye - like a today’s ‘Father Knows Best.’”

As a journalist, his top priority was always to deliver the truth. The reporter who wrote this description of him passes the test.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Free Recess




I was emptying Eddie's backpack before school one morning, and pulled out a reminder of a holiday food drive. It had been there for over a week, and the deadline to bring in donations was the next day.

I quickly started pulling items from the pantry, but he stopped me. "I don't need to bring anything," he said. 

Confused, I showed him the flyer and explained that we were still within the deadline, but insisted. "I really don't need to," he repeated. 

When I asked why, he explained that whichever grade was the first to donate 300 cans of food would be rewarded an extra recess, and that second grade had already claimed the prize. There was therefore, no point. In donating. Food. To the hungry.

Sigh.

I tried to use it as a learning opportunity, and we had a pretty good discussion about the purpose of helping others. I even quoted the scripture in Matthew about doing alms, and not letting your left hand know what the right hand of second graders doeth on their extra recess. He agreed to take the food. 

As amused as I was by the idea of kids getting hyped about a holiday drive to feed the hungry spend an extra 20 minutes on the swings, I can't say I've never done the same thing. It's fun to be rewarded. But focusing on praise or payback can also blind us to the reason we're doing good in the first place. 

It's the difference between the person who posts a selfie after paying for someone's meal, and the one who discreetly swipes their card, knowing that no one but the recipient will ever know, or needs to. 

To the receiver, the food tastes the same either way. But to the giver, it's the intention that makes it sweeter. 

The Ballpark Prayer

  It felt like the worst kind of dream. One minute three-year old Eddie was playing on the playground, and the next he was gone.  We were at...