“Sometimes I sits and think; and sometimes I just sits.”
Two interesting aspects of my life have converged this month. One is that I am preparing a series of meditations for a weekend silent retreat at St. Columba Retreat Center at the end of October. The other is that my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, is playing phenomenally well (at least so far) in the American League playoffs as the baseball world is winding up for the World Series later this month.
Thus, while my days are spent reading authors like Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek), Barbara Brown Taylor (An Altar in the World), Thich Nhat Hahn (Peace is Every Step), and Quiet Mind by David Kundtz, my evenings are spent watching baseball and texting my grandson Frazier, another avid Red Sox fan and also a very fine pitcher, if I do say so myself.
I don’t know why I continue to be surprised when two seemingly unconnected things suddenly and beautifully coincide, but I am. Writing about the value of being still for the retreat, I opened Mr. Kundtz’s book to an entry called ‘Just Sit,’ which begins with the above quote from one of the great professional baseball players of all time, Leroy Robert ‘Satchel’ Paige (1906-1982), the first black pitcher in the American League.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Satchel said he earned his nickname carrying suitcases and satchels for travelers at railroad stations. He said he wasn’t making enough money at a dime a bag, so he used a pole and rope to build a contraption that allowed him to carry up to four bags at once, whereupon one of the other workers yelled, ‘You look like a walking satchel tree.’
Kundtz writes, ‘When I was a boy, I had a picture of Satchel Paige on my wall, along with other Cleveland Indians baseball players. He had a special attraction for me because he seemed to be a man full of joy, wisdom, and easy showmanship. In my memory of him, he had a quiet serenity, even a sense of slowness, about him as if he were always remembering something important that he didn’t want to forget.’
Apparently, Satchel could pitch words as well as he could pitch a baseball: ‘Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.’ ‘Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.’
We need more Satchel Paige’s in today’s world, don’t we? People who can pitch fastballs that defy the best batters, and who can also take a ‘time out’ to do just one thing: just sit.
“Be still, and know that I am God,” wrote the Psalmist (Ps. 46:10).
“Sometimes I sits and thinks,” writes Satchel Paige. “And sometimes I just sits.”
Lord, give us the wisdom to be still, and to sit. Just sit. Amen.