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Jackie Robinson: Number 42

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

close up photography of four baseballs on green lawn grasses

Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com

My wife and I loved seeing the highly-acclaimed baseball movie 42.  When the movie was finished, no one left, and people began to spontaneously clap.  In the lobby, I met some long-lost friends who told me in great detail how much the movie meant to them.  We were all deeply moved by the costly courage of Jackie Robinson when facing intense hatred.  Robinson was a ground-breaker in both Canada and the United States.  Before playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson played in Canada for the Montreal Royals farm team in 1946. Delirious Montreal fans mobbed Robinson after his scoring the final hit that won them the Little World championship. Sports Reporter Sam Maltin commented: “It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind.” Mr. Robinson himself called Montreal “the city that enabled me to go to the major leagues.”

As the first Afro-American to play in Major League Baseball, Robinson faced much prejudice, but turned the other cheek, refusing to retaliate.  Robinson said: “There’s nothing like faith in God to help a fellow who gets booted around once in a while.”  Both Robinson and his Coach Branch Rickey, being committed Christians, knew that loving their enemies was key to a lasting breakthrough in the deeply racist baseball culture.  As Jesus commanded us, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Quoting Giovanni Papini’s book Life of Christ, Rickey called Jesus’ call to turn the other cheek the most stupefying of Jesus’ revolutionary teachings.

Rickey, played well by Harrison Ford, unforgettably said: “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.” At one point, Rickey pulled out hundreds of hate letters which had been sent to him with threatening messages.  It was consistent nightly prayer that kept Rickey and Robinson from succumbing to the relentless animosity they faced.  Rickey was told by a reporter that signing Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers would cause all hell to break loose. He replied, saying that signing Robinson would cause all heaven to rejoice.   Rickey memorably said: “Jackie, we’ve got no army. There’s virtually nobody on our side. No owner, no umpires, very few newspapermen. And I’m afraid that many fans may be hostile. We’ll be in a tough position. We can win only if we can convince the world that I am doing this because you’re a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman.”  Robinson led the Dodgers to their only championship in 1955. Signing Robinson proved to be literally a game-changer for the game of baseball.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that Robinson was a legend and a symbol in his own time, that he challenged the dark skies of intolerance and frustration.  King commented: “Back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable, Robinson understood the trauma and humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim walking the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom.  He  was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”  Dr Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, commented that the movie 42  brings an inherent message of courage, compassion and composure that prevailed in the lives of Jackie and Rae Robinson as well as Dodgers Manager Branch Rickey.   Robinson once said: “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  This movie reminds us that we all are made in God’s image, we all are people for whom Christ died, and we all are of deep worth in God’s sight.

Robinson played in six World Series, was chosen for six consecutive All-Star Games, and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.  He stole home nineteen times, more than any other player since WW2.  In 1962, Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The number 42 is the only jersey number retired by all the Major League baseball teams.  Once a year in April, all the Major League players wear the number 42 in honour of Robinson’s breaking the colour barrier.

I thank God for Jackie Robinson’s sacrificial refusal to give in to bitterness and rage. May his example of forgiveness be a shining light to those of us reading this article.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-an article previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse

-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.


-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


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Lest We Forget…

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

My Grandma Allen (we called her Nana) was one of the most loving people that I have ever known.  I often wondered as a young person what made her so faithful and caring.  Years later, I discovered that her strong faith developed through great trial and adversity in her life.  Her mother died while giving birth and her father gave the children away to the neighbours and went back to sea.  Two of her brothers Charlie and Harry both went off to war in World War 1 and never came back.

On November 19th, 1917 a caring chaplain wrote my Nana the following note:  “Dear Miss Williams, I dare say you have heard the sad news of the death of your brother Private H.C.W. Williams who was killed in action on the morning of November 6th.  He did not suffer as death was instantaneous.”

“No doubt you will feel the loss of your dear brother very much as it is hard to part with those we love; but it is a consolation to know he did his duty faithfully and died in a righteous cause.  He gave his life for others.  And ‘greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”

“I pray that God will comfort you in your sad bereavement and may you find his grace sufficient in your hour of need.  Cast your cares on the Lord and he shall sustain you.  With Deepest Sympathy, Yours sincerely, Alex Ketterson Chaplain 29th Canadians, B.E.F.”

Ketterson was a tremendous comfort to my Nana, because he understood the great sacrifice that her brothers Charlie and Harry made for the cause of freedom.  Chaplain Alex Ketterson knew that the mystery of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross can help us make sense of the senselessness of life.

For more than forty years, I have worn a poppy each November 11th.  It helps me remember and reflect on the great sacrifices by so many that we might be free.  It is so easy to take freedom and security for granted.  Freedom and democracy are a precious gift from God that must never be treated lightly.  I wear a poppy ‘lest I forget’.

How did the poppy become connected with Nov 11th anyways? A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were infertile before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the conflict ceased.

During the massive  military barrage of World War One, the chalk soils became loaded with lime from debris, allowing ‘popaver rhoeas’ (poppies) to blossom. When the war ended the lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again.

During World War One, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, of Guelph Ontario, heroically served as brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery.  With the introduction by the enemy of poison gas, John McCrae worked night and day for seventeen days straight, not even stopping to change his clothes. At times the dead and wounded actually rolled down the bank from above his Yser Canal dugout. McCrae wrote home “We are weary in body and wearier in mind. The general impression in my mind is one of a nightmare”.

The day before John McCrae wrote “In Flanders Fields”, one of his closest friends was tragically killed and buried in a grave decorated with only a simple wooden cross.  Wild poppies were already flourishing between the crosses that marked those silent graves.  In Flanders Fields” was first published in December, 1915 in England’s “Punch” magazine.  Within months, “In Flanders Fields” became the most popular poem about the First World War.  Translated in several languages, it was used in a 1917 Canadian campaign to help with the war effort, an effort which remarkably raised over 400 million dollars.

Three years later a New York City YMCA worker, Moina Michael decided to begin wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield.  Thanks to a 1920 visit to New York, Madame Guerin of France learned of the New York City poppy.  The poppy symbol so inspired her that upon returning to France, she made handmade poppies to raise money for French children made destitute by World War 1.  From there, the poppies spread like wildfire around the world.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

Why do 13 million Canadians wear a poppy on November 11th?  We wear the poppy, lest we forget.  My prayer is that we may overcome our collective amnesia and remember afresh the sacrifices of so many who gave their lives that we might live.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD,102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

 -Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca