I was in the company of two other 1968 high school graduates (stop doing the math!) earlier this week and we were reminiscing about times gone by. The three of us went to different county schools and we played sports against each other. We talked about people having to stand outside a gymnasium in the freezing cold for an hour to be guaranteed to get a seat for the game.
It's not that way anymore and we all agreed that we were saddened by that fact. For those of you who are thinking that we are a bit strange to actually miss standing out in such conditions, you can't appreciate what it's like to grow old. At our age all we have left is memories and we are really good at being selective when we think back to our youth. The "good old days" is a term that describes the great things we remember. We tend to block out the negatives.
As I read the news from this past week, a couple of stories stood out. One involves the ongoing saga of the Seneca County courthouse. There is now a fence around the structure suggesting that demolition is imminent. This is an alternative many find depressing to say the very least. Still, others feel that letting it sit in disrepair has gone on long enough. I understand both viewpoints and realize that whatever ultimately happens, many people will be unhappy. Oh to go back to the old days before the "grand dame" fell onto hard times.
The other story concerns the Tiffin City School board's decision to institute a "pay to play" policy for spring sports. I have serious misgivings about the concept, but again the alternative was to cancel the sports seasons altogether. Standing in the cold sounds better all the time.
When viewing the state of affairs in both cases I can't help but think of a statement I saw on a classroom wall at Columbian High School. It suggested that when one is constantly choosing between the lesser of two evils, they are still choosing evil. Yet that is what we have. No solution to either of the above situations is ever going to satisfy everyone, but decisions have to be made.
At the heart of the problem, of course, is money or the lack thereof. No individual, family or community has enough resources to fulfill the needs and wants of everyone. So we make choices that have many of us longing for a return to the olden days, when life was simpler and we seemed so happy. There were no cell phones, computers or video games when I was growing up. I would get a new basketball for Christmas and head up to the school playground and shoot hoops in the snow. Life, in my mind, couldn't get any better.
But we can't go back. Time changes and it waits for no one. It would appear that life will "never be the same again."
Or will it?
I wrote the story about Mary several years ago and given the depressing nature of these two stories, I thought it would be a good time to share it again.
She came to the bowling alley on Tuesday morning as she had for years. It was more difficult each trip, but Mary - who was well into her eighties - had been bowling for years and she wasn't about to stop any time soon. Her teammates would be expecting her and she wasn't going to let them down.
She stopped at her locker to remove her bowling ball before dragging it to the lanes. She smiled and said hello to her teammates as she did each and every week. By now, Mary's teammates were much younger. She had outlived the bowling friends of her youth.
When it was Mary's turn to bowl, she would send her ball down the lane. She threw the ball so slowly that she frequently had time to return to her seat and chat up her pals before the ball struck the pins. On one such occasion a teammate told Mary she needed to bowl. Mary quickly asked if it was her turn again already.
"No," her teammate chuckled, "you need to shoot your spare."
After league play concluded, Mary and her friends headed to the house restaurant to eat a bite of lunch. When the meal was finished Mary would reach into her purse and take a $20 bill to the counter to pay the bill. Each and every week Mary insisted on buying lunch. It was the least she could do for her beloved teammates.
What Mary didn't know was the fact that as she went up to pay, one of her teammates would put another $20 back into Mary's purse. They were not about to let Mary buy each week on her limited income. They were also not going to take away the good feeling that Mary had thinking that she was buying.
This story never fails to make me feel good and "good" is the word of the day. Life may never be the same again, but one aspect of it will never change. People are basically good and there are an awful lot of good people in the world. These good people do good things for the good of others.
Times will get better folks. As long as we never forget to do good for the sake of others life will also get better.
From my family to yours - have a safe and wonderful holiday season.
Al Stephenson is The A-T bowling columnist.
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