Learning To Fly

A soul in tension, that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try.
– “Learning To Fly”, Pink Floyd

There is a fable about the way the birds got their wings at the beginning. They were first made without wings. Then God made the wings and put them down before the wingless birds and said to them, “Come, take up these burdens and bear them.”

The birds had lovely plumage and sweet voices; they could sing, and their feathers gleamed in the sunshine, but they could not soar in the air. They hesitated at first when bidden to take up the burdens that lay at their feet, but soon they obeyed, and taking up the wings in their beaks, laid them on their shoulders to carry them.

For a little while the load seemed heavy and hard to bear, but presently, as they went on carrying the burdens, folding them over their hearts, the wings grew fast to their little bodies, and soon they discovered how to use them, and were lifted by them up into the air—the weights became wings.

It is a parable of course. We are the wingless birds, and our duties and tasks are the very things God has made to lift us up and carry us heavenward. Too many of us look at our burdens and heavy loads, and shrink from them; but as we lift them and bind them about our hearts, they become wings, and on them we rise and soar toward God.

I was reminded of this fable when I received a kind email from a friend containing a link to this story. I won’t say much other than you owe it to yourself to read it in full. One married couple, Paul and Sandy Rogers, were given what some would consider burdens when both of their children were born with a range of serious physical and intellectual disabilities. After some adjustments and time, they didn’t see it that way.

In 1991, the Rogers helped organize a baseball game for children with disabilities. That first game was played on a field in Ridgeland, Mississippi, on a scorching afternoon in August. The 18 children playing had disabilities including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness, and a wide range of intellectual disabilities. The stands were filled with parents who had never dreamed they would see their children do something as wonderfully ordinary as play a baseball game.

“That was the first team sport activity Claire had ever been able to participate in,” says Charlotte Myers, whose daughter, Claire, has cerebral palsy. “For the first time in her life, she was more than just an observer.”

“I think everyone in the stands cried the whole game,” Mandy Rogers recalls. “Just seeing those kids on the field, having a good time with other kids like them, was really something special.”

It was supposed to be a one-time event, but the game was such a hit with the players and their families that the Rogers organized four more games the following summer. The third year, what had started as a one-weekend event was expanded to an entire season. Paul and Mandy Rogers, an attorney and a stay-at-home mom, found themselves the “commissioners” of a full-fledged baseball league. Given the make-up of the teams’ members, it was only fitting that the league be christened “Challenger.”

They just celebrated their twentieth season.

Next week our city of Lincoln will host the 2010 USA National Special Olympics. The Games will host 13 Special Olympics sports with 3,000 athletes, 1,000 coaches, 8,000 volunteers and 15,000 family and friends on July 18-23. I’ve already checked my calendar and I have a few nights where I will not be watching or coaching a baseball game. Wait…check that. I will be. While there is no baseball on the schedule they will be playing softball at Fleming Fields, a place where I’ve coached Nolan and his teammates in many a game. I’m hoping to bring both of my sons along with me to watch and cheer on these athletes as they strive to live out our their motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

There is no burden which, if we lift it cheerfully and bear it with love in our hearts, will not become a blessing to us. God means our tasks to be our helpers; to refuse to bend our shoulders to receive a load, is to decline a new opportunity for growth. The Rogers’ lifted their “burdens” and in the process not only set to flight but have allowed hundreds to follow. Next week right here in Lincoln we’ll be blessed to witness thousands more take to the air and to soar.

We will learn much from the experience. We will learn to fly from those who already do.
***

As he or she approaches the plate, each batter’s name is announced over the public address system and walk up music blasts across the field. When “Brown-eyed Girl” plays, the crowd knows it’s Kayla Weaver up to bat. Jon Thomas Barnes takes the plate to the tune of “Big Bad John.” Hearing his name called over the PA system and walking up to the theme from “Superman” is especially important to “Superman” Tyler Cannon, who is visually impaired. The first time he heard his name called, Tyler stopped in his tracks, turned to his father and said, “Did you hear that, Dad? He said my name.”

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