Monday, December 16, 2013

The 'Rat'

. . . though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel (Micah 5:1-5).

Pat Conroy’s book, My Losing Season, is a memoir built around the story of Conroy’s senior year on the Citadel basketball team.

A minor character who appears throughout the book is the team trainer, Joe Eubanks. Everyone on the team called him the ‘Rat.’ One of the most moving chapters of the book is the story of the Citadel’s game against in VMI in 1967. This grueling contest went into four overtimes before the Citadel secured a victory. When Conroy made it back to the locker room his body was so exhausted that he couldn’t undress himself. The Rat pulled the sweat soaked shirt over Conroy’s head and unlaced his shoes. He pulled off his rancid socks and helped him stand up from the bench to walk to the showers.

Just a few years later, the Rat was killed in Vietnam.

At the end of that chapter Conroy tells of visiting the Vietnam Veterans memorial in Washington. With his finger he traced the names that are etched in the wall, names of boys he knew. With each visit to the memorial the last name he touches is the name of his trainer, Joe Eubanks. At this point in the book Conroy writes:

“It is always here at this name that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial unhinges me and I weep as though I will never be able to stop. My weeping is so public and visceral that I always draw the attention of other visitors, and they put their arms around me and try to console me. Veterans ask if Joe was a member of my unit and I shake my head no. Women ask me if I lost a brother. The sons and daughters of men whose names are on the wall want to know why Joe Eubanks meant so much to me, and they all look disappointed, even dismayed, when I blurt out in a tear- strangled voice, “He gave me towels. The Rat gave me towels.” (p. 302)
The high impact moments of your day are probably not on your calendar. Your mental and emotional energy may be directed to the meeting you need to attend and the holiday tasks that still aren’t done. You may be facing a deadline or packing to catch a flight. All of those things matter – but the high impact moments of this day are moments you haven’t planned because they are small and ordinary.

Do not despise the small things: Getting your kids to school, conversation in the kitchen, interactions with co-workers, a compliment or affirmation, holding hands, a kiss on the forehead. Christmas reminds us that sacred things come in small ways.

Pay attention to small things today. What you do without a thought may last a long time in someone else’s memory.

Gracious and loving God, throughout this day grant to me the gift of your Spirit that I might embrace the small things, the unapplauded tasks, the people on the margins. Work through me to refresh the heart of someone else, in the name and strength of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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