No Guarantee
Off the Wall, Aug 07, 2009

Most everyone, I believe, is acquainted with a ping pong ball. I grew up using the small, white, hallow, bouncy, circular ball on a ping pong table. Across the middle of the green-painted plywood was a small net, approximately six inches tall. Opponents stood at opposite ends of the table. One would knock the ball over the net to his competitor. If he missed, points could be accumulated for the other person.

A good many people in my growing up days either had these tables in their garages or basements. We probably did more of this type of sport than watching television.

What I want to talk to you today is not the game, but more about the ball. Now I know someone is thinking about the manufacture of it, or its origin, but sorry, I have a new application for it. I hopefully will show you how it falls into a pattern of one’s life, and seeing it, versus disappearing from one’s eyes, is very significant.

Let’s start by you being the little ball and a special somebody drops you into a tributary of a slow moving stream. Sitting up proudly, you move about wherever the water takes you. You may touch upon debris that sends you into one direction, or knocks you against protruding rocks that diverts your direction. Just maybe for a short time, you were in a pool of water going nowhere, but a little undercurrent sent you heading downstream to get you out of your comfort zone. That’s the way life goes for most people.

So, picture in your mind, then, you are that little ball coming from where you were dropped and heading toward a newer and bigger body of water. Destination is obscured by various objects upcoming in your path. As you begin to bounce off rocks, you note that the once little creek has now widened a bit. You feel more pushed to get to the junction, kind of like life, when pressures start mounting and you feel stuck in the thick of things. Pretty soon, you get to the larger stream. You see the raging waters. Since you are a ping pong ball there’s no turning back. However, we human beings do have a choice. We can stop in our tracks and rethink our decisions. We can say no, I don’t want to do this, and start over, taking another route, pondering and planning, and then taking corrective steps.

All along, the person who dropped you into the water watched your path, smiling as you succeeded with your endeavors. He not only watched you as you floated along, but listened intently as you knocked against the rocks. But things changed when you met the junction of a swifter moving current. Before long, you were whisk away, swallowed up by little waves and ripples. Every once in a while, you found yourself along the bank’s edge, tapping the sand and the pebbles that outlined the edges. But that was short-lived, for a slight breeze would propel you forward, and you were again on your way.

The person who dropped you in the little tributary scurried to the outflow and looked downstream, hoping to catch a glimpse of his favorite little ball, but you were out-of-sight, not to be seen anywhere. All he knew is that he had done what he thought was right, letting you take control of your life and go in some direction that may not only set you free, but let you become part of the mainstream activity.

The whole scenario reflects growing up. Our parents keep us sheltered for a period of time, raising us as they think we ought to be brought up. But, there comes a time when we have to be set free and discover life for itself. Some siblings will go with the flow and choose whatever their peers think is relevant to society’s leanings. Others will stand firm on principles taught by their parents regardless of pressures put upon them. Once the ball became swallowed up by the river, so are our children who became engulfed in a world of temptations and persuasions, some very different than they experienced as youth.

What can be gained by this analogy? I think the lesson points out that even though we do the very best we can to educate and instruct our kids as to the ways of life, there will be no guarantees which direction they’ll go when we do set them free. We can only hope and pray they will do as we taught them. But if they stray, we still must love them.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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