Yamaka

I saw something offensive on the golf course a few days ago that will stick with me for awhile – something that flies in the face of so many things we hold dear in our culture.

I was playing a par-three course in Denver that’s surrounded by a retirement community.  It’s cheap, plays fast, and they take really good care of it – a great place to practice your “short game.”  I was by myself and playing faster than the couple that had started a few holes ahead of me.  From a distance it looked like a man teaching his wife to play golf – his arm around her as she swung the club, very loving and patient, albeit slow.  As I caught up to them I realized it was a very old man and his son.

I got frustrated because they were playing so slow.  Each time the old man swung, his ball would go about 15 yards or so.  I waited forever on the last hole, but the longer it took, the more I was changed.  The son would help his father, bent almost 90 degrees at the neck, out of the cart, take his hand as he walked him to his ball, and hold his shoulders as his dad tried to swing.  I think it took 6 shots to get to the green, 195 yards total, and another 6 shots to finish.

As I waited, leaning against my 5 wood because I can’t hit a 5 iron that far, I thought about what it must take to be that patient, that concerned, that present.  I thought about what a hurry I’m always in, how I’m never that present with my own father, much less anyone else.  I thought about how offensive this was to the “me first,” “get it fast,” “what’s the next thing on the list” stereotypical Western values that we all hold onto so tightly.  I had one of those rare moments, reminded what really matters.  I felt at peace.

The old man and his son putted around on the green for a bit, then left.  I teed up my ball and swatted it – 15 yards or so – which really pissed me off, like it was some sort of anomaly.  I’m a shitty golfer, always have been.

I had a good second shot and 2-putted, which isn’t horrible.  As I walked off the green I passed the young man who had been helping his father.  “Can I tell you something?” “Yeah,” he said with a totally checked in peace on his face.  “I really appreciated watching you with your dad.  That changed me.”  “Oh,” he said surprised at the awkward/blunt confrontation, “Thank you.”  I felt like he needed to know that his submission to something higher than himself didn’t just affect him and his dad.  Few people could have seen what I did and not been affected.  We think our lives, lived in front of others, good are bad, are benign.  As awkward as it was, he needed to know, and I needed to say something.

As we parted company I noticed that he was wearing a black Yamaka, I didn’t see it before, I was a long way off, and he had dark hair.  Forgive me, I’m none too savvy on Jewish customs, maybe I should to refer to it as a “Kippah,” or “Yarmulke.”  Either way, I walked back to my car, popped the hatch on my crappy white minivan, put my clubs in the back, and thought about strength and humility for the rest of the day, wondering why, as an Evangelical, I don’t think about it more often, especially in those places where I really suck.

39 thoughts on “Yamaka

  • Nice write up. As a Christian, I am merely “grafted in” and through the mercy and grace of GOD, and by the sacrifice of Christ, granted the right to be of the “chosen people.” I try and learn much from Jewish people, especially the Messianic Jews. After all, we worship their GOD, and they have been at it a few thousand years before us…they have some insights as to how it’s done…GOD bless…Frank N. Blunt…

  • You may not have golfed well but you served that young man well. Great act of kindness! I bet your game will improve each time you think of that good dead, just as you improved his day.

  • Your authentic reflection of yourself spoke to me, as when I am honest, many of the things you bemoan are what triggers me as well. Yet, in perhaps a smaller way, I have been humbled too and reminded to change my focus a bit. Thank you.

  • What a beautiful moment. It has always amazed me how the simple things we witness change us the most. Many of us spend so much time looking for the BIG things, we miss the small things that make a really BIG difference! Thank you for sharing this story with me!

    • This is a really good point. I was saying this to my husband the other day. Much of life is living in the simple. I think as a mom, my job is to help my kids love the simple things, the ordinary, the small things that most people don’t notice. So many parents are aiming for the stars and hoping their kids become presidents, but how many of us actually live THERE? I don’t know many. I think life really is meant to be enjoyed, no matter who you are, but how often do we forget to look. And don’t even get me started on the Pokemon Go kids. I love that they are outside, but why do you need a game to be enthralled when you have the simple pleasures right under your nose?

      • I think you’re absolutely right about helping our kids notice the small things. I don’t think there is anything wrong with helping our kids reach for the stars but so often people get stuck there and forget that the every day ordinary things are just as special, maybe even more so. I hope to instill in my kids that the every day is where the most blessings happen. It’s in the song of a bird, the sun shining down and making the world glow, the waking each day with another chance to be better than we were before. There’s so much to life and we have to notice and appreciate the little things for the big things to be BIG!! Lovely to hear back from you

      • Yes I didn’t mean to down play working hard. We should teach that too. But I agree. It’s sad we ignore all that is around us.

  • I’m always noticing how people interact. It’s like the introvert in me, I guess. I am a people watcher. Not having my mom and dad around, I always notice older parents with their kids. Part of it rises up a pity party in me (my dad died when I was 11, my mom when I was 32) and I wish I had the opportunity to watch my parents grow old. The other part of it is I really hope my kids care for me like that when I’m gone. I also appreciate seeing people be selfless. I’m sure it’s rarely fun to take care of an aging parent, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. Some day they are gone and you wish you could do it just one more time. Great thoughts here.

    • So sad to hear about your parents. I feel like I spend most of my time taking mine for granted… Dad and I love to play golf, I hope I can take him to the course long after he’s able to go by himself.

      • Thank you. I think we all take our parents for granted. It’s easy to do with any relationship. It’s hard to always think the best, you know? Glad you can share some time with your dad.

  • What a wonderful, inspiring, story. I love when we’re “pulled up short” to witness true love and devotion – a caring we might be neglecting in our own lives. He was an excellent witness to you. Blessing that family and yours!
    PS: thanks for finding me today so I could find you!

  • Oh, how I use to have the same mind set of hurry, hurry, hurry. That was until April this year – when I waited an entire month thinking that I may have a rare blood cancer. As a Christian, my life and my plate was so full of all these things that kept me busy, busy, busy. Not now – life is slower and I find peace in the beauty of everything. It sure opened my eyes! I enjoyed your post.

  • It was really good of you that you told the son how you felt about his actions. I’m sure that he appreciated it. Helping elderly parents can sometimes be thankless task, even if it what is required of you.

    I am especially touched that they made such a positive effect on you. We call this making a Kiddush Hashem, a Sanctification of G-d’s Name, when a Jew does something positive and it reflects well on G-d and his Torah. Thank you for sharing it, to read positive things about the Jewish People is a good start to my day. Also as I’m out and about being visibly reminds me how important it is for me to make a Kiddush Hashem wherever I go.

    (And fyi any of the names for a yarmulke, kippah, kuppel can be used interchangeably)

  • Wow. Too few people are as observant and open. Sad. I appreciated this story. My brother would, too he’s a golfer and was real close to our dad. I think I will forward to him, if it is ok. Thanks, too for reading my blog!

  • “I teed up my ball and swatted it – 15 yards or so – which really pissed me off, like it was some sort of anomaly.” I laughed out loud at that line. What a great story!

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