In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness and basketball. There are so many ways to break your body playing sports. The relentless practices while everyone else is sleeping is the real deal. My mother to this day tells me that I have run my body in to the wheelchair. You see she has a hard time remembering the recent years. Each time I get to see her it breaks her heart over and over again. We soon move forward after the initial shock, she sees that my body may be broken but my spirit is brighter than ever. All Thanks be to God. We then talk about her childhood and my childhood and the beautiful memories we have. We begin to see the way God has never forsaketh this poor, humble and beautiful family warts and all. The first visit we were blessed to have after the pandemic we sat on my back porch and talked the sun down. I was able to spend my favourite time of the day with her. The blue hour right after sunset is when I feel and hear God the best. Students look up the blue hour on the internet. Find a day to sit and watch God’s glory in your heart and soul. I guarantee that your heart will stir within your chest. This, my wonderful students, is the Holy Spirit. Yes back row it’s homework! Yes you can even have a beer as you watch, but remember everything in moderation.
Let’s get back to the Glory Days of my youth. This is what God has urged me to share :blessings from brokenness. I remember all of those wonderful years of my youth playing sports in my small town. My love for sports came at such a young age. I was blessed that my parents were able to purchase a small, beautiful house in a new upcoming neighbourhood. We would leave the government projects and my mother would be able to fulfil a lifelong dream of owning her own home. It would be a sanctuary of sorts for her five children. She paid eighty one dollars a month for thirty years. She did. She is still living there by God’s love and the love of the children she bore. The move from the city to this rural neighbourhood blessed me immensely. I had lots of kids to play kickball, baseball, and basketball. One of the kids whose parents had a double lot let us have our own “sandlot.” Yes back row, kids really did play ball in their neighbourhoods like the movie. Where do you think they got the idea for the movie? Fact is better than fiction! Yes back row, add that to the homework.. Watch The Sandlot and laugh your arses off.
This new neighbourhood also blessed me with a small county school to attend. I can fill books with all of our Holice Powell Elementary School antics. Sadly as I began my school adventure my father’s five years of sobriety ended. He would be estranged from us for until my eighth grade year at HPS. God provided me with a beautiful friend and her family loved me as their own daughter. You see, my mother never learned to drive. She also worked third shift at the nursing home. She entrusted her youngest daughter to this amazing family. It started with PTO basketball in the third grade on Friday nights at the school. My best friend’s mom was our coach. They were so vital to me in this broken season. They picked me up and took me home for almost the entirety of my childhood. It Began with PTO basketball but this family encouraged me to play basketball and softball at the Neighbourhood Activity Center until their daughter and I could be on the little basketball team at Holice Powell. Our little school was K-8. We continued softball at the NAC throughout our lives playing on various church teams as young adults. I thank God for that place that was started and staffed by the Johnson family. The impact it has on our little city is still reverberating to this day. This amazing family started the parks and recreation for our town with lots of blood, sweat, tears and the love of Christ. Today there are three pools, beautiful parks with walking trails, tennis courts, softball fields, weight room, community rooms for family gatherings, and last but not least, gymnasiums. They gave us children places to have good clean fun. I spent many summers splashing in the pools they advocated for and yes back row it was so similar to The Sandlot. Watch it!
My father had gone to the VA Hospital in his early fifties, around 52. He rejoined our family. He was on his road to redemption. He became involved in my life with sports and even coached my softball teams at the Neighbourhood Activity Center. I owed so much to the family that nurtured me until my family became whole again. My childhood friend became involved in AAU travel basketball in the summers of our high school years. We drifted apart and had different friend groups but continued to play basketball for our high school :DHS. We had one of the first great girls basketball teams at our school. The other successful team had been decades and led by Lillian Yarbro. Our four years of high school we made it to the state tournament three of the four. The whole city loved us. I thank God every day for my small town. My senior year, we won the district but lost in the second round of the regional tournament. It was one of those games that the mojo was not in our favour. It was a gut wrenching loss and the season of high school was over.
The next season would be college. I had no idea how to navigate the scholarship and college selection. I had a decent ACT score but my choices were dwindling because I waited until the last minute to choose. The University of Memphis, then Memphis State, had an available full scholarship. I had always loved the Tigers and would mimic the center, Keith Lee, in my backyard on the dirt court. There was absolutely no grass in the basketball area. It had been worn off by years of backyard ball. I wanted to make my little city proud so I chose Memphis State. The first year was so hard. In the country growing up, your chickens have pecking orders. I was the lowest in our pecking order. I had not sat on the bench since 7th grade. I was now in the big pond. The coach and I never clicked. I was a free spirit. I was not the best player and I lacked confidence. I went to a coach that thrived on fast breaks and pressure defense from half court sets and slow down defense. College had the shot clock. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I swallowed my pride and sat on the bench. I told myself next year I would come in ready. I promised myself I would be better. In the summer I worked for a daycare keeping school age children. That next fall I came back to college with a mission. I was going to get some playing time. I worked so hard however I was still a ghost to my coach. The last straw was the Tennessee game against the legendary coach Pat Head Summit. We had two outstanding post players and at the half we were tied. Our outside game was nonexistent. We needed shooters. I was a baller shot-caller. I was big, skinny, slow, but I could shoot from anywhere on the court. She played every single person but me. After the game the first words out of her mouth in the locker room were, “Girls, you fought hard but I tried every combination possible. We needed outside shooting. “I felt so small. She looked directly at me but never put me in the game. I felt like the Isralites of the Old Testament. I was girding my loins and fleeing. I went to the dorm, packed up, and headed home. The coaches came by to talk me down. Even she who could not be named. I went back home and back to the day care where I would meet the love of my life. I turned down two more scholarships and got married.
For years I lived a quiet life. Ashamed that I had let my city down. I was determined to rectify the failure. I went to the local community college and began my own road to redemption. I had to go before the board and tell them I would fulfil the scholarship. I was granted one year of eligibility. I would go back, play, and get my GPA back up. A fire had been lit inside me. My life was different now. My husband and I had children and I had a much bigger reason to succeed. I received my associate degree in science. I began my junior year at The University of Memphis. I graduated in !997. This was exactly ten years from my high school graduation. My husband and I had four children and I began my teaching career. I was blessed to serve the children of my city for twenty years before ALS. I was able to give back and love them the way they loved me. No more shame. Just love. Love covers so many sins and hurts. Students, today the lesson is never give up and always get up. Every life road will have pot holes and forks. Not one life is perfectly happy. The happiness is in the journey. Allow God to shoulder your failures and try again. Choose good. Choose God. Students, those are the key.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ALS Gal
Quote for the Day
“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.