Getting Above the Rim
Above the Rim
A New Neighbor
Marty was my neighbor for several years and a true friend for many more. We lived next door to each other in the country. I initially tried to talk him out of buying the property, where he would eventually build his house, doing all I could to dissuade him because I really didn’t want neighbors that close. The quiet solitude I enjoyed in the country was slowly being infringed upon by more and more newcomers. Anyway, my attempt failed and Marty built his home. I vividly remember watching the furniture vans arrive one truck at a time.
When I first met Marty he was working with his dad as a bricklayer and when his dad retired Marty carried on the business for a while. He was a single guy who loved sports like me. He was a family guy who honored his mother and his father, who were at that time almost in their eighties. Marty and I ultimately became close friends and we helped each other get through some pretty tough emotional times.
A New Game
A year or so after he moved in I heard hammering echoing in the woods behind Marty’s house. My dogs were barking so I went outside to see what the commotion was about. Marty was framing a half court, regulation size, concrete basketball pad behind his house in full view of my kitchen window. We had played on the same church league team once a week the year before, but when he built the court out back we played 1 on 1 many an afternoon. Neither of us was very tall nor was our jumping or jamming days still with us and although we could touch the rim we’d never get above it. We would pound our bodies against each other like kids, which was very wearing on me since I was 12 years his senior. But, it was a time of great sportsmanship and much needed fellowship. It was also a time when both of us could speak openly about issues in our lives and we both needed the competition and male camaraderie.
An Empty Court
A New Struggle
Not long after he came into our neighborhood Marty confessed that he had a drinking problem and that he was going to be away for awhile. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time (naïve, I know) but, I later realized he would spend some time behind bars. After discussing what I could do to help I offered him a small Gideon’s Bible. I shared some of my own struggles and told him how I had carried it with me all through my years in the Army and through several moves around the country during my own difficult times of youth and young adulthood.
One day after work I heard a basketball bouncing on the concrete out back and I ran to the window and sure enough it was Marty, shooting foul shots. I grabbed my sneakers and ran to play our first 1 on 1 game in some time. Later we sat sweating and chatting. I was floored when Marty told me it was my witness to him on the court and the gift of the Bible just before his incarceration that helped him get through his time in prison. The fact that someone cared for him enough to be open and honest meant a great deal to him. From then on the body slamming was much more significant, competitive and fun too!
A New Experience
Life changed, time passed and the good times shooting hoops with Marty faded into the past. We both moved away and the court behind Marty’s house was silent. I ran into him one day a while back and saw that he hadn’t changed a bit. He still loved sports, his mom and dad and was taking care of them with each passing day. It was really good to see him and to know that God continued to bless him.
Through the years I watched Marty overcome worldly desires to live a quality life and I always admired him for putting his mother and father’s needs before his own. Though Marty desperately wanted many of the same things most other men wanted he continually impressed me by steadfastly honoring his heavenly Father by taking care of his earthly mother and father.
Living next to Marty was not my desire, it was God’s desire! It changed both our lives in a mighty way. Marty came to know the Lord and I came to know that if I surrendered myself, God would use me to help another soul. God’s Word was the springboard that helped a couple of middle aged guys get into the game of life and we both finally got above the rim!
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