I wanna tell you a story. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had just begun playing varsity football. I was a bench-warmer on the team and it was the first game of the season. I had admired and practically worshiped the “larger than life” varsity football players since I was about 4th grade, and I was finally getting the opportunity to be one of them. Damn, I wanted to see the playing field. At the time, there was very little chance of me seeing anything other than the bench, but if the opportunity arose, I wanted to be ready. I maneuvered my way across the sidelines and into the line sight of my coaches. Each time one of them looked back to the sea of players, I wanted to make sure that I stood out. I knew better than to flail my arms and yell, “Me. Me, coach. Pick me.”, cause that would not be cool, and everything in high school is about being cool. Right? (fart sound). As I kept one eye on the coaches and one on the field, I noticed that our center was getting his ass completely kicked, and I knew that he was about to get benched, or at the very least, pulled to the sidelines for an ass chewing. This was my opportunity. Here it was, first game of the season, and I was about to get my opportunity to see what varsity football was all about. I made sure to be visible, front and center, so I was in the coach’s faces as much as possible.

That was when I got the call. “Buddha, get in there and play center.” Buddha was a nickname that I had earned for the impressive roundness and overall size of my belly, which I would have my friends and teammates rub for good luck. I had been given the opportunity that I asked for, because I got in the coaches face as much as possible. I would break the huddle and anxiously address the ball, as the first snap of my varsity football career was about to take place. The quarterback began the cadence, “Down. Set….” I was about to have a most unwelcome spiritual experience.  “HUT”, said the quarterback. As I began to pull the ball between my legs and into the quarterbacks hands, it felt as if a Mack Truck had lost control, ran onto the field, and hit me square in the teeth. I saw a flash of light and felt like I was floating. I was briefly raised to the heavens where three angels appeared. The angels, slowly and in unison, all said at once…”DAMN”. I had not even delivered the ball to the quarterback’s hands before this dude had teed off on me so hard, I didn’t know whether to piss or wind my watch. I would be given two more snaps, each with a similar conclusion. My life was over. I was done.

I went home that night and I cried like a baby. All night I cried, because I thought that I just wasn’t up to the varsity level. I assumed that every nose guard was that fast and that aggressive. As it turns out, that gentleman, who quite literally nearly decapitated my head from my shoulders, was named Cletidus Hunt. Cletidus Hunt would go on to play five years for the Green Bay Packers. It turns out I would be one, in a long line of  dudes, who got their ass handed to them by Mr. Hunt. I would continue playing football for throughout my high school career and never face a man more talented, nor an ass beating that brutal. The future was not nearly as dark as I had envisioned.

This Friday evening, Amanda and I decided that we were going to attend “Deaf Night Out”. Being that we have been attending a 12 week Level 1 sign language course, we had been told that Deaf Night Out was the best way of immersing ourselves in ASL (American Sign Language) and also making friends and connections in the deaf community. Deaf Night Out was being held at Cooky Canucks, and was nothing more than members of the deaf community getting together to eat dinner and shoot the sh*t. We were scared to death to walk into those doors. Our Level 1 class is almost over and I was actually feeling as if I was losing interest. I have not been practicing, because I feel that it is just too hard for me to learn. All that said, we decided to take the uncomfortable road and walk into a room full of people that we have never met, and really had no real way of communicating….and it was magical. There was a table off to the side, where Amanda and could have tucked ourselves into and watched from afar, but someone waved their hand at us and insisted that we squeeze ourselves right in their amongst the group. There was a girl who was hearing and married to a deaf man. She helped us immensely as we got to know some of the individuals. The deaf people were MORE than willing to slow down, be patient, and teach us their way of communication. It was friggin AWESOME. Totally uncomfortable. Totally unlike anything I have ever experienced. Totally out of my comfort zone. And totally one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

The entire experience was the universe’s way of verbalizing that it I am on the right path.  I got the message, loud and clear. Just about the time that I was ready to throw in the white towel, as it pertains to my learning of ASL, I was rewarded with the experience that we had Friday night. I met a deaf gentleman named Ashton. Ashton was a three time State Championship Wrestler out of Chattanooga, TN. As you might imagine, I have so many unanswered questions for Ashton. I have no option but to continue my education, as I want the opportunity to place myself in his life. Also, just as I was starting to believe that I simply did not have the ability to learn ASL, I met Lucas. Lucas was a PIECE OF WORK. He was as country as a butterbean. He could hear and speak just fine, but his wife was deaf. He told me, “hell, I’m just an old redneck from Arkansas who fell in love with a deaf woman. I never thought that I would learn sign language, but you will if you hang around ’em long enough.” I mean, it was as if God himself was saying, “Beef, if Lucas can do it, you can too.” It was perfect. I mean perfect!

I guess what I am trying to say is this…if I want good things to happen, sometimes I gotta get in God’s face a little bit. I don’t mean that I need to make demands, and certainly not yell and scream, but I think that it is important to make myself visible. I need to maneuver my way to the front lines and make sure that he knows, I am ready for a challenge. I am ready for excitement. I want the universe to know that I am prepared to experience all of which I am totally unprepared. If there is a new ride at the fair, I want to be the first one on it. I don’t want to wait until everyone else gets a ride, then have the thing derail from being over-used. I don’t want someone else to blaze the trail, and I miss the excitement of the journey. This weekend, I heard someone say, “the only way to know that you are on the wrong trail is if someone else has already cleared it for you.” I believe that when I get in God’s face, he will provide me with the opportunities and excitement that Amanda and I had on Friday night. I also believe that he will provide me with opportunities to get knocked the fu*k out by Cletidus Hunt. But hey, “Cletidus happens”. Sometimes things just whack you in the head, but that’s no excuse to hide out by the water cooler and pray that the coaches forget you are on the team. I wanna kick and holler and make a lot of noise. I am so thankful for experiences like Friday night, where I get to be reassured that I am on the right track, at least in some areas of my life. I look forward to the week. I am excited to watch and see what opportunities I am given to grow, and live a better life. I will be conscious of the fact that it is better to participate in life and get my ass kicked, than it is to hide by the water cooler and wait for time to run out. Have an awesome week.

Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,