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.