The House That Ruth Built

The first game played at Yankee Stadium took place on April 18, 1923. The last, barring some miracle, was played Sunday, September 21, 2008. Between those times, 151,959,005 people have attended baseball games at “the house that Ruth built”.

The ceremonies Sunday were full of pomp as well as class, as such things usually are. There were plenty of emotions, too, as the bittersweetness of the situation affected players, coaches, spectators, broadcasters, and those watching at home or listening on the radio absorbed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

There were classic moments for the famous members of the current Yankees roster (Mariano Rivera throwing the last pitch of the last game, or Johnny Damon’s three-run homer). But legend says that Yankee Stadium is also the place where even a relatively unlikely and unknown person can take their place in history. All you needed to see was the reaction Jose Molina got for his two-run homer later in the game.

I listened to the game on the radio at home. To me, this is the best way to take in a game. Baseball is a sport that is somewhat removed from the 21st century. Wooden bats are still used, and games are played at the rhythm of pitchers throwing, fielders catches, runners circling the bases. And, except for teams playing in domes, the games are still subject to the laws and inconveniences of nature, whether its rain or snow or swarms of gnats.

They called the stadium “the house that Ruth built”. On a personal level, I will never be able to say that I set foot in it.

But I have my own house that my own Ruth, my godmother, built, or at least helped to build.

When I was growing up, I took piano lessons. But my family wasn’t wealthy. My godmother never had children of her own, but she made strong and long-lasting connections with her extended family. She was a cousin of my grandfather and became one of my grandmother’s best friends. She also generously supported my piano studies, sending checks each month with the simple notation “Joy” in the memo.

Music then gave me joy and continues to give it daily. For her, it was a joy to be able to see another human being discovering a dream and, through her contributions, further that dream.

Money is not the end, but it is a means. It is not the goal, but it makes achieving a goal much easier when you have it. Ruth spent her money helping me, but more importantly, she showed me by example that the truest riches are the connections we make with other people.

Over and over, my own life has been blessed by interactions that most people would call unlikely. In 2000, I began corresponding in Braille with a blind pastor in the central African country of Malawi. What started as a few letters has grown, and over the years, we have sent hundreds of boxes of Braille books to him. He, in turn, has passed the books to any other blind person who wants to read them. In a country where there is no library for the blind, these books have brought the world to the fingertips of many who otherwise would not have dreamed of touching anything further than their own experiences.

I spent this morning with a friend, packing boxes and taking them to the post office to begin their long journey to Malawi. Sometimes, these trips, the packing and labeling, and the gathering of books from various sources is a real annoyance. Over the years, people who have started to work with me with great enthusiasm have fallen by the wayside as they got involved with other things or just decided they’d had enough.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep going when it seems that you aren’t getting any visible, tangible results for your efforts.

At times like that, or especially after I’ve done a large shipment like I did this morning, I stop for a moment and just think. I know how much I anticipate receiving books I’ve ordered in Braille in the mail. I look forward to holding them, reading them, opening my mind to the frontiers they lay before me that I wouldn’t otherwise get to explore.

If I, who live in a country with the best library service for the blind in the world, feel this way, how must it be for the children and adults in Malawi? There is no electricity or running water in the district where these books go. There are few, if any, good roads. Blind people are lucky if they have the chance to go to school. They spend their days begging, or sitting at home because they don’t have a way to travel by themselves.

This is not to imply that they are incapable, just that the opportunities we take for granted are far beyond them. The arrival of new books for them is like Christmas morning for a child, full of the possibility of surprise and delight.

Book by book, box by box, I am continuing the legacy my godmother started when she made it possible for me to study an art that would have been out of reach otherwise. In my own way, I am adding to “the house that Ruth built”. For some in Malawi, it may be just the foundation they need to enable them to begin reaching for their own dream.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Blindness, Braille, Dreams, Family and Friends, music, piano, Reading, Sports

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