On the corner of Fourth and Walnut (about a half-mile from where I was born) in downtown Louisville in 1958, monk and contemplative Thomas Merton experienced a mystical revelation where he suddenly awakened to his oneness with all of humanity. He writes in his book, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:
“I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers…Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” Perhaps some of you have felt something similar to this before, that not only are we made to be one with the divine but also one with one another, with all of humanity. No story that I have encountered in my journalism career has epitomized these ideas like the stories revolving around a softball tournament in Roanoke, Virginia (which took place last weekend), which raises money for mission work in Paraguay. No story like the Briscoes (who began the tournament) and their relationship with the Kurrles (the missionaries who the tournament helps fund).
Two families, a world a part, who rarely see one another, yet have been united since Twila Briscoe roomed with Tabita Kurrle, the matriarchs of their families, 50 years ago at Anderson University… A tournament that has transcended time, and even generations, raising money for Paraguay as the mission’s financial lifeline for over three decades… A demonstration of unity in the human race. A profound reflection of oneness in the Triune dance. When my mentor and former boss, Chad Briscoe, first introduced the tournament to me six years ago and suggested that I could write a book about my findings, I honestly thought he was crazy. A book about an obscure softball tournament in Roanoke, Virginia? And even more obscure, Paraguay? Who in their right mind would even dare to read such a thing, not to mention actually buy it? But all it took was one tournament for me to find myself compelled (and maybe even a little addicted) to discovering its layers of stories. I began attending the tournament every year. Gathering stories, then writing. Gathering stories, then writing. I tried writing a third-person biographical/historical narrative about the tournament, but after a couple of years, I set it aflame. I tried writing a more-colorful third-person narrative, but I eventually added that to the fire, too. (Now perhaps you understand why writers always seem so hopeless and distraught.) So I eventually just started writing about how the stories I had gathered impacted me as I ventured through my twenties, as my spiritual paradigm was shifting, as I was discovering my true self, which is Christ in me, the hope of glory.