As my middle son Mark and I were playing tennis at the local tennis courts, I was reminded once again that tennis is a lot harder that it looks on TV! The proverb ‘It is better to give than receive’ applies well to my tennis game. Perhaps the reason why I do better at badminton than tennis is that tennis requires a remarkable speed to ‘receive’ incoming rapid-fire shots. On our ‘Island Hall Parksville’ honeymoon thirty-three years ago, my wife and I discovered that we love each other deeply, but tennis was not our secret to marital intimacy.
As I was recently out visiting, drinking tea and chatting, the famous tennis player Serena Williams appeared on the TV screen. Serena is a phenomenal tennis player who makes it looks so easy. There is an art and rhythm to her game that is gripping.
Watching Serena on TV reminded me of a promising young North Shore tennis player Rishan Kuruppa. A while ago, the North Shore News did a write-up on Rishan, as he trained at the North Shore Winter Club under the leadership of retired pro Grant Connell. Rishan has a deep passion for tennis that touches everything in his life. He eats, sleeps, and breathes tennis. I remember Rishan telling me how he daily ran up the Grouse Grind as part of his tennis workout. It left me feeling rather envious and relieved at the same time.
One of my favourite places to work out has been the Parkgate Gym. I’ve often run into Rishan there lifting weights and running backwards on the treadmill. One day we were both on parallel treadmills. I was on a fast walk at ‘4.2’ and Rishan was running at ‘7.5’. Having just received a tennis scholarship for the University of Tennessee, Rishan was determined to be fully up-to-speed before he left Deep Cove.
Rishan had often competed in the United States and began telling me, while on the treadmill, about some lively churches that he had visited in his tennis travels. I asked Rishan if he knew Jesus on a personal basis. Rishan said ‘no’ and genuinely asked me if I did. I shared my story of how I met Jesus on a personal basis while in Grade 12. Still fast-walking at ‘4.2’, I asked Rishan if he would like to ask Jesus into his life. Rishan, still running at ‘7.5’, promptly agreed, and so I led Rishan in a ‘treadmill’ prayer, to ask Jesus to be his Lord and Saviour. After prayer, Rishan said to me: ‘That’s great. I can feel Jesus’ peace.’
I believe that Rishan Kuruppa is a better tennis player today because of the inner peace that he received that day on the treadmill. Running, walking, or sitting, I believe that such inner peace is available to all those reading this article. Prayer anyone?
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News