Each morning I take Lisa into Hanover to work and then pick her up again in the afternoon. It is part of the deal we made since I am retired and she is (more or less) the bread winner. I am adjusting to this arrangement and finding ways to fill my time.
At our campsite I noticed a basketball court and one day decided to purchase a ball and shoot some hoops during my spare time which constitutes about twenty three hours per day. As I was picking Lisa up from work one afternoon I noticed another basketball goal at the St. Marks Evangelical Lutheran Church which is just across the street from the hospital. Since I was early, I decided to stop and work on my jumper and have made it my ritual every afternoon since. The neighborhood where the hospital and the church are located is one of the nicer sections of Hanover. I would equate the area to that of the Town and Country subdivision of Owensboro. Because the Hanover and Gettysburg area has such historic significance, many of the buildings and neighborhoods are much older and in some cases a little run down. Not to disparage these communities and their history, but Lisa and I have felt less safe in some of these older areas and, fortunately, the hospital neighborhood is one I feel safe for her to work in.
So I’ve been playing basketball at this Lutheran church for the past two weeks. Occasionally I will see people jogging or walking their dogs but up until today have not had anyone really seem to notice me or care. They have seemed to be okay with me playing basketball in their neighborhood and for that I am grateful. But today a man came up to me drinking a cup of coffee and saying he had noticed me shooting baskets and just wanted to say hello. His name is John. I would guess he is in his mid sixties and he told me he lived in the house just across the street from the church parking lot where the basketball goal is located. We introduced ourselves and I explained our situation and how we were in Hanover for at least three months for Lisa’s job and that I was retired.
He then told me about himself. He also is retired and moved here from Maryland just a year ago. He lives with his wife and his mother in law who is in her nineties. For the past nine years he has been caring for his wife who he told me has alzheimers as well as taking care of his aging mother in law. He has done this for the past nine years. He told me he needed a break and enjoyed watching me shoot baskets. My heart immediately went out to the guy. Despite all the things John is dealing with – he seemed very upbeat and extremely friendly. Did I mention he has done this now for nine years?
I have passed his house each morning and afternoon – not having any idea what was going on inside. John is carrying a heavy cross and appears to be carrying it alone. I really don’t know John and I’ve never met his family. He said he has a son who lives in Indianapolis. But beyond that – nothing. I do know he is a nice man and told him I was glad he introduced himself to me and that I was sympathetic to what he was going through. He simply said that the last nine years had been hell. I suppose we would be shocked to know what is going on in the lives of people we pass each day. Everybody has a story.
I told Lisa about John and we prayed for him. I don’t know what God is doing with this whole thing – but I sense he is up to something. Why did I want to play basketball and why was there a basketball goal here in this Lutheran church parking lot next to John’s house? I know why because I know God – he has done this to me and probably many of you before. He has a way of sticking our noses in people’s business that otherwise we would rather steer clear of. There have been occasions when we feel gouged with the pain others are feeling and know that God wants us to feel their pain – know their hurt and be Jesus to them – somehow.
I don’t know how Lisa and I can be Jesus to John and those he is caring for. But I have a feeling God just messed up my basketball playing time.