Stepping Up to the Plate
In baseball there is the time when the batter steps up to the plate. It can be an intense moment. It can be nerve wracking. It is when all eyes are on the one standing over the plate ready to take his place in the action of the game. He is the next in line to face the throws of the pitcher. He is ready to start making his way home. In truth, I’m describing life.
When I was 10, I lost my first grandparent. It was devastating to me because she was the one I loved the most. She spoiled me rotten. But most of all she loved me immensely. I cried and cried. I cried even more as I watched my mother and her sister bury their last parent. As she picked up some dirt and threw it on the casket, she said to her sister, “Well, we just stepped up the plate.”
I didn’t really understand what she meant then. But just a few months later I lost my grandfather. My father had now stepped up to the plate. Over the years as all my grandparents passed on, I began to realize what the phrase meant and how important it really was.
Where the holidays were spent was shifted. Not at the grandparents anymore. Now, my parents took on that responsibility. When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day rolled around, they were now the focal point of the whole family. The burden of responsibility to take over leadership shifted to them. It is a heavy burden. Traditions carried forward. New traditions approved. Trying to keep the younger ones on the right path and receiving the prodigal back in open arms. Worrying over the paths of their children and grand-children take over their waking thoughts. Knowing that they are the next ones facing the realization of mortality. Stepping up to the plate and making their way home.
After giving birth to my third child and facing a cancer scare just a few months later, I took my first initial steps up to that beckoning plate. I recalled those words of my mother as I watched the dirt falling onto the last physical remains of my father. I was actually sitting in the batter’s box warming up. I was only thirty-two years old! Was I ready to walk up and place the bat on my shoulder? Was I ready to anticipate the swings of life and lead my team (my family) to another inning?
Less than two years later my husband’s grandfather passed away. His children were warming up in the batter’s box. Or at least were supposed to be. The thoughts of what lay before them were far from their minds. After all, his wife was still going strong and her mother was putting us all to shame with excellent memories and wonderful spirits. They thought that they were still in the dugout. But they were so caught up in the antics of the crowds that they did not see the coach coaxing them to the preparatory box.
Four years later the last of that generation passed on over home plate. In shock, the children were confronted with the bat in hand and pitcher preparing for the first pitch. They kept shaking their heads in disbelieve. What happened to the dugout? They were having so much fun sitting there. The message at the final funeral was delivered by one of their own children. He pointed out that they were now the ones over the plate. They had no choice but to take up the bat and stand over the plate. The game had to go on. There was no choice in this.
They balked. They didn’t want that position, but as the fear subsided the arrogance set in. They could do this. It couldn’t be that hard. Their parents succeeded. They could do it. But in the process they pushed aside the words of the coach and all their trainings. They ignored the mistakes of the ones before them. They began to swing strikes. What was wrong? They were now the ones over the plate. Therefore, they called the plays. Instead of being part of the game, they began to try to dictate and direct the game. The players in the dugout balked. What were they doing? Didn’t they learn from the mistakes of the others. There was much at stake. Think of those sitting on the bench instead of thinking of the sense of power!
After getting beaned a few times and arguing with the ref multiple times, the batters began to listen to those around them. They began to realize that stepping up to the bat is not a place for fear. It is not a place for power. It is a place of humility and leadership.
When you step up to the plate, you take over the role of leader in your family. I did not say dictator. I said leader. A truly great leader is one that leads by example and not by command. A great leader is one that understands that life comes with bumps and sink holes. We have to keep on going and reach our destination. A true leader learns control, humility, and wisdom. A true leader shapes those they lead with love and compassion while showing strength and power.
I’m faced with the coach telling me to begin warming up. I have no idea when I’ll be called to stand over the plate and lead my team forward. But I have to be ready. I have to begin to grow and be teachable. I have to learn compassion and strength. I have to learn to lead and learn. I have to be ready to step up to the plate. Why? Because I have to teach my team how to step up with confidence and take the pitches life gives you. Strive for the homers. Learn from the strikes.
I’m in the game. I’m going to stride forward when the coach calls me. I’m going to face the pitcher. I’m going to take in a deep breath. I’m going to do the best I can. I’m going to lead my team to victory.