Thanksgiving Day 2012

This was sent to a group of men, ages 50s to 90s, some who have played doubles tennis together for three decades.  A few of us, from two to ten out of the twenty plus who play, get together at the local McDonalds to talk afterwards, which is what I refer to in this missive.  

Poinsettia Tennis Group

For the moment there is a suspension of the ongoing conflict that surrounds the Gaza Strip that could have been the fuse for a clash of civilizations between the Arabic world and Israel and its western allies. From such sparks -- the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 comes to mind -- have come unimaginable global carnage. That murder lead to WWI, which sowed the seeds of revolutionary Communism which bred the fascist response that included the murderous antisemitism that resulted in the Jewish homeland-- with displacement of the indigenous population to a place called Gaza.

And then there's the occasional conflict that we experience while playing tennis in the courts of Carlsbad California. Voices are raised, tempers are lost, and there is a place deep in our brain that lights up in the same way as those who last week felt the explosions in that contentious land on the Mediterranean coast, including the family of a member of our group.

While this part of our primitive humanity can emerge even in our public playground, so does another side, the ability to transcend differences to form something that enriches us all. Among this informal group are those whose childhoods were blighted by political movements that defined the twentieth century; ironically by both arch enemies, Communism and Fascism. One man spent a good part of his youth in a Japanese displacement camp in Indonesia, others under the most oppressive phase of Soviet Communism, and some of us on different sides of the Jim Crow line that was an echo of this country's original sin.

We are Christians, Hindus, Agnostics, Jews and Atheists; staunch conservatives and dedicated liberals. Married, single, widowed--some who have known the joys and the sadness of parenthood and others with no family at all. Some of us with careers that have provided personal and financial rewards and others who for an array of reasons have not, and some who can really play this game of tennis like a pro, and others like myself who don't come close.

Some have experienced our country's wars, from the "good one" that united the country after that day of infamy to those that followed that divided us then, and have perpetuated the political animosities that are still so searing to this day. Scars of war, whether shrapnel embedded in flesh or images embedded in memory, last a lifetime, as are the emotional scars that accrue just in the process of being alive.

It is the pain of such injuries that can be alleviated, dispelled if just for a moment, as we concentrate on sprinting to that lob that may land in bounds and returning it for a winner. So, I give thanks for this game, and the people whom I play with who make it possible, and this brief moment of, if not world peace, at least the glimmer of hope that such a thing is achievable.

Al R.

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