By Chuck Swindoll
Years ago, when I was a teenager growing up in East Houston, three other buddies and I spent a lot of time shooting hoops in our driveway. My dad had made me a basketball hoop at the machine shop where he worked, and then bolted it above our garage. It was there I perfected what I called “my famous two-hand set shot” (the jump shot, which is now seen on every court, had not yet emerged). I spent so much time out there I got to where I could often pop the net with my set shot from ten-to-fifteen-feet out. Since I was too short to play for our high school, I cultivated my driveway skills, playing two-on-two until almost dark every evening. My problem wasn’t the hoop or my set shot…it was the beat-up rubber basketball we had worn slick from bouncing it on the rough concrete hour after hour. I had already patched it several times to plug the leaks, but those thick tire patches had a way of fouling up our dribbling skills.
With Christmas about a month away, you can guess what I really wanted my folks to give me: a brand new, rubber basketball…preferably a Voit, the best-known brand to use when playing outside…one that could take the pounding we would give it. I dropped every hint imaginable, usually at the supper table, as I talked about how many more shots I could make if only I had a ball I could grip, one that wouldn’t bounce the wrong way when I was driving to the basket. I even mentioned that I might be able to make the “B-team” at school, if I had a better ball to practice with. My mom and dad, who were clueless when it came to the sports world, often chose the kind of Christmas gifts that would “enhance education,” which interested me back then about as much as learning advanced algebra. That’s why I intensified my hints, finally coming right out and saying that a new basketball would make the perfect gift.
About one week before Christmas, a brightly wrapped box appeared under the tree with a big red ribbon. It was from both my folks and guess whose name was on it? You’re right: the next Jerry West’s name appeared (in my mind)…except they spelled my name on the card, not his, which was understandable. When they weren’t watching, I’d pick up that box, shake it around, toss it up in the air and catch it, over and over again. How great was this—they did it! I could not wait to open it then dash out back and get used to the feel of that new Voit basketball in my hands. I lay awake all Christmas Eve night and got up before anybody else on Christmas Day—banging around the living room so loudly I woke everybody up.
Finally, the big moment came: I tore off the wrapping, ripped open the box—and to my great surprise, there it was: a WORLD GLOBE! Not a round ball by Voit, but a round globe by Rand-McNally. I could not believe it. Talk about disappointed! I mean, have you ever tried dribbling a world globe? Or firing off a set shot ten feet from the hoop, knowing that it would get snared in the net? And to make matters worse, my mom smiled and said, “We knew that you could use this in your history class, son—with just a quick spin you’ll be able to see it all. And more than that, we hope that someday you will be able to make a difference all around the world!” What I wanted back then was a spin off the backboard that swished the net, not a look at everything from Anchorage to Zurich to “enhance my education” of geography and history.
But all of that was then—this is now. The surprise I experienced was long ago and the disappointment is now a distant memory. Something far more significant is an everyday reality. Today, I may watch a basketball game from time to time, but when it comes to this world? I now spend every day, not thinking about sitting idly by, spinning a globe, but about sending the light in order to make a difference all around the world.
Lo, and behold, much to my surprise…my mom was right.