"Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last;
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
As is becoming an annual summer tradition, Jim took Joshua to a day at the Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp yesterday. Joshua's cousin came again this year. Joshua's friend, Tristan, from school joined them as well. From the boys sleep-over here the night before to the drive home from training camp, they had a great time together. (Gabrielle, Nan Nan and I enjoyed special girl time together! Gabrielle picked out blue nail polish for her mommy-given manicure.)
It was "Military Visitor Day" at Eagles training camp yesterday, so the chances of the guys getting to meet players and receive autographs was slim to none since they were non-military visitors to camp. However, they enjoyed a fun morning watching practice, seeing the players and coaches, watching the news media do their thing, and going to the souvenir shop. (The NFL souvenir shop...a place where boys and men actually enjoy shopping!)
Just as they were ready to leave camp to get some lunch and head home, Tristan said to Jim, "Mr. Sloan, can we please go to the sidelines and see if we can get some autographs?" Jim was feeling badly thinking that the boys would not get to meet the players personally as they were only greeting military personnel on the field. However, seeing the hope in Tristan's eyes and the excited look on Joshua and his cousin faces of "possibilities", Jim said, "Sure." So, instead of getting on the road to head home, they headed for the sidelines.
They stood for quite a while hoping to get some players' attention. It didn't look good. Then, they saw Mike Patterson and started shouting his name out. Mike looked up, saw the boys and ran over to the sideline straight to them! Jim said Mike "made a bee-line to us". He graciously and attentively signed their footballs and helmets. Mike Patterson even took a few seconds for a quick picture.
The boys were excited, and Jim was thankful he listened to the "please" of a young boy's heart.
Then God gave Jim and Joshua a very unexpected blessing. An Air Force serviceman who was on the field with the players came right over to Joshua and said, "Are you a big Eagles fan?" Joshua looked at him a bit puzzled and said, "Yes!" The gentlemen then handed Joshua an Eagles yearbook with several autographs on it and said, "Here, this is for you. I want you to have this." They couldn't believe it! Their hearts were overwhelmed by this serendipitous blessing for a young Eagles fan from an Air Force serviceman.
Jim shook the serviceman's hand, thanked him several times and thanked him for serving our country. We are not sure why that kind gentleman picked Joshua out of all the children there, but we know God's fingerprints are all over that encounter. And that man's kindness and generosity made a huge impression on Joshua's heart.
After the serviceman returned to the field, Joshua then turned to Tristan and said, "Here, Tristan, I want you to have my autographed football. I want you to keep it forever." Later at our home, when Tristan called his mommy to tell her about their day, he said, "Joshua gave me his autographed football." Joshua, who was standing near Tristan while he was on the phone, said, "Remember, Tristan, it is for you to keep forever."
The crowns of kindness in His name last forever. His grace, mercy and love that bring us serendipitous blessings are truly overwhelming. The bonding of friends and cousins, and the joy in a daddy's heart are priceless treasures.
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6