It was in the forth grade. Our playground supervisor, Mrs. Rankin, allowed us to play catch with a football. To say that it was unusual for us to play with a football is not a stretch because all the other balls we ever played with were round: kickballs, softballs or basketballs. But we never played with a football. And in our little community school of 150 students, there was never enough interest or participants to form, furnish and fund a functioning football team. It was all about basketball. But on this day…the football came out.
I watched with interest as the guys tried to throw, catch and chase the oblong object that seemed to wildly careen every time it bounced. The guys seemed to be having fun. And I must admit it looked interesting…that is until the ball bounced near me. As I leaned over to pick it up and politely toss it back, I noted an added element to the ‘game’. It was called, ‘GET CHUCK. HE HAS THE BALL’!
Instinctively, I turned to run, somewhat because it seemed the right thing to do and somewhat because I didn’t want to look like a scared girl and throw the ball down and go hide. Quick as hungry hogs on slop, the boys were ‘on me’: literally. One by one the ‘crush’ grew until I couldn’t breathe and there were only small snatches of light piercing between all the legs and dirty sneakers.
Fully in panic mode because of the bodies weight on top of me and the lack of oxygen inside me, I mustered a muffled scream of ‘HELP’! Somehow through all the laughter and giggles, Leonard heard my frantic cry. Over the raucous noise of the pile of boyhood, I heard Leonard shouting to everyone to ‘GET OFF’. ‘HE’S SUFFOCATING’! As he shouted, he began pulling bodies off the pile. Soon another then another boy got the memo and began pulling off piled bodies. An eternity later as the daytime was beginning to get dark, the last boy was pulled off and I was liberated.
I don’t remember much about the next few minutes. By the time I was aware of what had transpired and what was then taking place, all the boys were off in another corner of the playground repeating the cycle, but with ‘bigger’ boys. I was alone with my thoughts, except for Leonard. He hadn’t left with the others and was somewhat preoccupied with questions like, ‘Are you o.k.?’ ‘Do you hurt anywhere?’ ‘Can you breathe alright?’
When I had answered his questions satisfactorily, he simply put his hand on my shoulder and we walked calmly back to class: together. I didn’t need a body guard at that moment, but it sure was comforting to have him walk along with me.
I say all of that is order to say this, ‘You see, at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly [us]’…! As one of our hymns reminds us, ‘Oh to grace how great a debtor…’! And all God’s people say, ‘AMEN’!