I was tagged last week by Sarah and had to come up with six random or weird things about myself. Some were both random and weird (glad to know that I’m not alone in my fear of clowns). My mentioning of the girl whose life I saved drew much more response via comments and emails than I thought it would. A few of you suggested that I expound upon that a little. So I will, with a little background…
I had everything figured out at seventeen. My future was planned, crystal clear and meant to be. I was the starting second baseman on my high school team, had already gotten letters from several colleges and had been scouted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
I was going to play baseball forever. I had to. Because the person who roamed the halls of Stuarts Draft High School and drove his truck around town wasn’t me. Not the real me. No, the real me was the guy on the ball field. It was the only place where I ever really felt I belonged.
School was an irritant. Most high school seniors try to stretch that last year out as far as they can, enjoying every moment. Not me. I wanted out. I had a life to get living.
Not that high school was hard. I had the prototypical jock schedule of classes–Math, History, English Composition, and four study halls. Brutal. Then one day Mrs. Houser, my English Composition teacher, decided that I needed to do something, so she pulled some strings and got me a job: writing a weekly column for the local newspaper. Write about anything, she said. Just make it good.
I obliged, partly because I had to but mostly because Mrs. Houser was my favorite teacher. Every Tuesday evening I would sit down with a pad of paper and watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island, writing during commercials. It was busy work. Something to pass the time. Nothing more.
Then my world fell apart.
We were playing at Fort Defiance High School when someone hit a ground ball to my right. I backhanded it and threw off balance to first base for the out.
And my shoulder exploded.
Four trips to doctors and specialists resulted in a shared consensus: I would never played again.
It’s tough being seventeen and knowing that every dream you ever had was gone. Tough knowing that your entire life lay in front of you, just not the life you wanted. Tough.
So one night I got in my truck, drove into the mountains, and found the highest rock I could so I could jump off.
Almost did it, too. I got to two and a half on my count to three when a voice popped into my head and said, “You’re really not afraid of dying, are you?”
No. Not at all.
Then you’re afraid of living.
Whether that voice was God’s or my own still escapes me. But I sat for a long while on that rock, thinking. Then I got back into my truck, drove home, and wrote my column. Really wrote. About how things sometimes don’t turn out the way they’re supposed to and how sometimes life can be more night than day. And how, in the end, we have to keep on. We just have to. That was the night I learned to strip myself bare on the page, to risk exposing fears and worries and doubts. To quit pretending I was someone I wasn’t. It was the biggest act of courage I think I ever displayed.
Three days later, a letter was sent to the high school with my name on the front. Thank you, it said. “I’m having a really tough time right now, and a few days ago I thought I just couldn’t take anymore. I was going to end it. Then I read your article and, well, I’m still here. So thank you. You rescued me.“
It wasn’t signed, and there was no return address on the envelope. I didn’t know who sent it, but I did know this: God didn’t want me to play baseball. He wanted me to write.
At the mall, a month later. I was picking my girlfriend up from work and decided to walk to the bookstore. Approaching me was a teenage girl in jeans and a leather jacket. I nodded as she passed, and then she called my name.
“Allison,” she said. “My name’s Allison. I’m the one who wrote you that letter.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what she wanted me to say. So I asked her if she was all right, to which she replied that she was, to which I replied that it was nice to meet her. I was so shy, so backward, so unnerved, that I simply nodded again and walked away.
I have had many bad moments in my life. That one? Top three.
I never saw Allison again. I do, however, still spend many a day wishing that I would have. Just one more time. Just to tell her I was sorry for not saying more. To tell her to keep hanging in there and that she’s not alone.
And to tell her that she rescued me, too.