Little League

For the past two weeks, 12-year-olds from around the world gathered in Williamsport, PA, for the Little League World Series. I love to watch kids play baseball. Most of the time, I am amazed at their athleticism. Occasionally, they still play like average kids, but then again, so do major leaguers.

My favorite Little Leaguers are the really little ones, the ones who look like the Great Gazoo from the Flintstones when they don their helmets—all head, tiny body. It’s their sheer joy in playing the game that gets me. I love that they run the bases in the wrong direction, that they slide too soon and crawl the rest of the way to the bag, that they are more interested in blowing bubbles with their mouths full of Big League Chew than catching a ball.

One of the things I love about watching the Little League World Series is the camaraderie among the players and teams. It’s great that they mic the coaches. We get to eavesdrop on their conversations with the players, hearing them encourage pitchers in tight spots, telling them to keep calm and do their best. My favorite was a coach that told his team who was about to lose the game, “No matter what happens, I love you guys, and I’m proud of you.”

Watching kids playing baseball and having fun was a welcome retreat from the recent news stories. Here were young boys with different backgrounds, from around the country and around the world, swapping pins, collecting autographs, and coming together for the love of a game. They encouraged each other, cheered for each other, challenged each other, and when it was all over, congratulated the winners and consoled the losers, even if they didn’t speak the same language.

Kids often teach us the greatest lessons. These kids weren’t afraid of each other and their differences. Instead, they took time to get to know one another and found common ground in a game they all love, a game known for sportsmanship. While they played by the same rules and wore similar uniforms, they still celebrated their differences.

I watched a player from South Korea signing an American player’s t-shirt. Both boys sported ear-to-ear grins as the South Korean explained the symbols. The Japanese team bowed to the umpires and fans before and after the game. Every winning team celebrated with raised arms and hugs and every losing team had their criers.
It’s the best of baseball. America’s pastime. In August 2017, it was a welcome pastime from the adults who can’t get along.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

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Puppies!

There are so many directions I could go for my first real blog post. Since I promised puppies, and who doesn’t love puppies, I’ll start there.

Saturday was Family Day at The Seeing Eye, Inc. It was the 35th annual celebration of puppy raisers (1500 this year) who are invited to visit the home base of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, for all sorts of fun and festivities. There are dog demos, graduate talks, seminars, face painting, hot dogs, ice cream, and meeting and greeting other puppy raisers and Seeing Eye staff. The day is provided to thank the volunteer puppy raisers for their part in the mission of The Seeing Eye–to enhance the independence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs.

I am often asked how I got involved in puppy raising. The answer is simple; I wanted to teach my children character. In the 1990’s I was homeschooling my children. At every homeschool fair I went to, I heard the same message–teach character first, then academics. But the question I always had was the same, too. How do we teach character. Sure, we can model it for them and read stories about people of character. But how can we teach them character in a way they can grasp, a tangible, hands-on way.

Then we saw a Seeing Eye puppy demonstration. Kids were raising puppies, showering them with love, teaching them commands, obedience, and manners, taking them everywhere they went for exposure, and finally, giving them back so they could become the eyes for a blind person. A lot of love and work went into this project, all for someone else, a complete stranger. This is what I was looking for. And you get to have an adorable puppy for a year, too!

“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” (Proverbs 20:12) This is the verse from which The Seeing Eye derives its name. We have been raising puppies for 20 years now, currently with #22. It has been a blessing in so many ways. It did teach my boys a lot of character traits like responsibility, consistency, patience, as well as public speaking, leadership skills, and that a puppy in the mall works as a chick magnet.

You could practically trip over the spiritual parallels, but you won’t because, you know, we’re talking about guide dogs. In a beautiful picture of how God leads his children, Seeing Eye dogs guide their people safely where they need to go. Often the blind people are oblivious to the many dangers the dog keeps them from. Sometimes the dog stops and shows the person the problem and then leads them through it. Sound familiar? One thing you might not know is that the dog does all this because they love the person they have charge of. It’s not for a paycheck, it’s not even for a milkbone, they do it because they love that person and want their love and praise in return.

The most important thing the blind students are taught is “trust your dog.” If the dog stops or changes direction, there is a reason. The blind person needs to trust the dog is stopping or changing course for their good and follow the dog’s lead. As Christians it can be scary to trust God’s leading when we can’t see where he is taking us. But as we learn to trust him, we find that he makes our steps secure (Psalm 40:2).

Puppy raising taught all of us lessons we never even considered when that first little ball of fur arrived at our door 20 years ago. And I certainly never expected a career to come of it! I am so thankful for all we’ve learned and all the puppy love we got to experience. Below are photos of #22, and scenes from Family Day.

For more information about The Seeing Eye, Inc. and the puppy raising program, visit their website at http://www.seeingeye.org.

Yardley baby

Welcome!

Here we go! After years of saying, “I should start a blog,” I’m finally doing it! So, why People, Puppies, and Parables? It’s simple.

People: For years, my motto has been, “It’s all about relationships.” That’s really what life comes down to, the relationships we have. I will share what I have learned from the people in my life. And I’m sure there will be plenty of cute stories about my grandchildren. I can’t help it. Grandparenting is one of the great joys of my life!

Puppies: Having spent 16 years working in Puppy Development at The Seeing Eye, Inc., I have so many stories to share (and cute pictures, too). To respect other’s privacy, I will only refer to my puppies by their number, not their name. (We are on #22, so there are lots of stories!) I understand what I think is a cute story may damage the relationship between blind person and their guide, so I will keep their identities anonymous. But I will share plenty of adorable puppy pictures–seen one Lab, you’ve seen them all.

Parables: Defined as “a simple story to illustrate a spiritual lesson,” I see parables in the everyday stuff of life. Too often we miss the spiritual lessons right in front of us. It might be the people I come across from day to day or the puppies doing what they do or observations from nature or the hilarious situations I often find myself a part of. I hope to open our eyes to seeing God in the everyday.