I recently came across a post from an old friend. Unfortunately, I haven't seen her in person in a long while and on the rare occasion that we communicate, it’s typically through FaceBook. But although some years have past and our interactions are sparse, I know her. I know her because I know her love of tennis.
Here's what she wrote:
"Gratefulness! Last weekend I watched two ladies worry their tennis may be over indefinitely -- one nearly in tears that her knee is gone. I have lost two former doubles partners to cancer way too early. I have played this game of tennis I love since I was 13. As I get ready to turn 58 in a month or so, I am grateful to have played at high levels and never been sidelined and I have mobility to still play. I take nothing for granted. I am blessed. #ButGod" - R. Ervin
With her post, she included a photo, shot from above, looking down onto her Babalot racquet with a ball resting on its strings, lain flat on the ground between her feet, which sported a goodly-worn pair of Adidas tennis shoes. Her still athletic legs framed the bottom portion of the photo, an homage to the sport, and the time of her life.
As I read her post, I felt the anguish of those ladies challenged with physical ailments most likely brought on by the sport we love so much. I felt the disappointment of her partners having to step away from the game to battle a greater foe, cancer. I also felt the loss knowing that they had ultimately lost such an unfair match. But more than ever, I felt the gratefulness toward this sport which has brought me more joy and more challenges than any other I’ve ever known.
Tennis confronts you. And pushes you. It takes you to your most outer limits in just about every imaginable way. Physically, emotionally, intellectually, competitively and even spiritually. (I can't remember how many times I've reached down into my soul to find a way to serve just one more down the middle.) It presents you with an endless array of opportunities to either succeed or fail with each and every point. Each time you send the ball over the net and within the lines, that's a win. And when you fall short, it's a chance to learn a quick but important life lesson about picking yourself up, sooner than later, to try and do better the next time. Tennis coaxes you to take chances, trying your patience as you work the ball and wait for the precise moment when you've got your opponent, who is eagerly waiting her own opportunity, in just the right situation to take control and finally win the point. Tennis dares you to grow or not. Your decision.
And then there’s the people. The best experiences always come down to the people we share them with, don’t they? Our co-pilots, our leaders, our sisters. That’s what they become whether intentional or not. Sharing in all the challenges and triumphs together.
Tennis weaves it's way into our lives and becomes part of the fabric which makes us who were are. How many of you, when asked to describe yourself, include a statement like, “And I’m a tennis player.”? I’d imagine it is the majority of you. Or how many of you map out your calendars with your tennis seasons already plugged in for the year? Of course you do. Because it's THAT important.
So for those of you who are healthy and playing as much tennis as you are allowed - More power to you! Stay healthy and strong! For those of you who have been sidelined with injury or illness of your own or of a loved one, I offer well wishes for a speedy recovery. You are sure to hold court upon your return. And lastly, to those of you who continue to be ambassadors of the game, championing this great sport and refusing to ever trade your racquet for a rocking chair - Be happy. Be grateful each time you set foot on the court. And may you find grace with every strike of the ball.
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