I remember, as a young eighth grader, talking my best friend, David H., into trying out for the eighth grade basketball team with me.
For the previous few months, we had walked home from school together to his house, where I helped him fold and deliver papers on his Garland Daily News paper route. I worked for no pay, because it didn’t seem like work, I was just spending time with my friend.
Afterward, we would play basketball in his driveway until I would have to get home for dinner.
David had never played on an organized team, so I talked him into trying out.
We went to practice each day, then went home to deliver his papers.
A few days later, “the list” was posted. It only contained the names of those who made the team. David did. I did not.
I think I shed some tears of disappointment.
I remember thinking, “I probably would have made it, if only I had been a bit taller.”
David’s mother asked me if I would take over David’s paper route until the season was over.
I learned to enjoy work, and the financial benefits of doing a job well.
I rooted for David from the stands.
In the ninth grade, I got my own paper route, this time the Dallas Morning News. I would wake up to a clock radio at 4:00 am, ride my bike a mile or so to the shopping center to get my papers. EVERY MORNING. 7 DAYS A WEEK. During this time, making seventy to one hundred dollars a month, I always had money at hand. I would often loan my parents five or ten dollars when they asked. When I delivered papers, I got pretty good at the sidearm throw, usually hitting the front porch. When I missed, I would get off my bike and place the paper on the porch.
In 10th grade, I tried out for the South Garland basketball b-team. I tried so hard. I wanted it so much. I did not make the team. “If only I was taller,” I thought.
Looking back, while I had decent speed and quickness, and good hand-eye coordination, I was never disciplined enough to put myself through the necessary repetitive drills to become skilled with ball handling and shooting.
A short time later, I got my first hourly job with Safeway. My boss’s name was Perry Stan Butts. He smoked those little Camel cigarettes. I was scared to death of him.
My first day, I was scheduled to work 4:30-9:30. It was a Friday. It was busy. They taught me how to bag the groceries, take them to the cars and load them. I worked nonstop until around 8:30. Bagging, bagging, bagging. I never stopped for water. Never took a bathroom break. I was a bit overwhelmed.
When it slowed down a bit, one of the older package boys took me to the back room.
The bottle room.
(For you younger readers, in the old days, when you bought a soft drink, you paid a nickel a bottle deposit on every single bottle. But, you would get your money back when you brought all your bottles back to the store. But, someone had to take all those bottles, separate them according to company, Coke, Dr Pepper, RC Cola, Seven-Up, and put them in proper cartons, then proper wooden cases, then stack them according to company in the back room. I was that someone, 16 year old 5’7” sophomore.)
So, that first night, I entered the bottle room. There had to be 20 or 25 grocery carts FULL of bottles, and Bob Hendershot showed me how to do all the separation and stacking. Then he left me there, to finish by myself. I was over whelmed, but I finished.
That night, after going to bed, I sacked groceries and “racked bottles” all night long.
The next day, I learned that I was required to take a 15 minute break (union rules). Someone could have told me.
A week later, I received my first paycheck, 13.67 after taxes.
This made it all worthwhile. Fridays were great.
Why am I telling you all this?
Now, I am 69 years old, working for myself as a chimney sweep and window cleaner.
I love to work.
I learned the joys of hard work because I wasn’t good enough at playing a game to be chosen for a school team.
But, when I went to Rice University, I walked on as a hopeful for the Rice soccer team. I had never played soccer.
But I could run.
I made the team, eventually became a starter, scored one goal in three years, and worked evenings for Safeway.
I didn’t became a follower of Jesus until 7 years later.
But, I can now look back and see the Hand that had guided my circumstances, guided my steps before I knew Him.
And He begins, even before we love him.
“And we know that in all God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28-29