Strategically located, the inspiration was plainly noticeable whether exiting or entering the junior high locker room. As memory serves, with youthful exuberance we’d habitually jump up and slap the affixed placard as we headed onto the court following the coach’s pregame pep talk.
At the time, we had little or no knowledge of the sage responsible for the proverb. Somewhere in our boundless enthusiasm and emerging pubescence, we figured the adage would wonderfully morph into something internally tangible as we took the field of play determined to vanquish an opponent.
Credit for such insight could have belonged to fellows named Knute, Vince, or even the father of a previous U.S. president.
Emblazoned in our impressionable psyches were the previously popularized sayings of “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and its thoughtful counterpart, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
Having an athletic career never described as illustrious, I remained sufficiently confident those words had been permanently inscribed within. Possessed, to some degree, they admonished me to press on through, no matter the obstacle or adversity, and stay the course through thick and thin.
Convinced from the time of my adolescence and beyond, I valiantly upheld the merit of those simple quotables. To that, I had even convinced myself I regularly fulfilling their lofty intent.
Over time, however, it became readily apparent that I lived in a fantasy world. Only for a distinct period of time had I actually stayed any course. I am quite capable of getting lost as easily as anyone.
Pursuits with such inspired fervor are admirable, but as time passes, realization comes to slap you upside the head and forcing re-entry and back to the gravitational pull of reality.
In retrospect, it dawns on me that, for example, I quit taking piano lessons, after eight agonizing years, in the ninth grade. On the other hand, it may have been that my mother finally quit arguing with me on the matter, tiring of the daily arm-twisting of luring me to the bench to practice.
Over the years I handed in my resignation letter for all sorts of jobs, from a newspaper delivery boy to co-pastor at a thriving Toledo church.
Deflated and defeated by a college basketball coach, I eventually quit the team and took my “talents” north where there was a beach, actually, less than an hour from the university campus.
Having diligently secured a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Accounting, which, by the way required five years to accomplish, I held onto the ledger and balance sheet for dear life until God pried it from my grasp and firmly replaced it with the Good Book, called me into the pastoral ministry.
Exhausted and on the verge of an embarrassing defeat, I quit claiming I still had “game” and put an end to the fierce one-on-one battles of basketball with my teenage sons. In due time, more than a few joints and muscles were screaming for me to give it a rest. At that point I stopped running and jumping and was relegated to walking and pedaling.
Retirement is on the not-too-distant horizon. It will be “tough,” but the time comes for each of us when we need to “get going.”
Nearly five years ago a good friend and member of our New Creation congregation approached me on a Sunday morning. He asked if I would ever consider being a guest columnist for The Lima News. Completely caught off guard by the request, it gave me a pause to recall a query made to me by a seminary professor four decades earlier.
Equally unexpected, as he and I strolled the “hallowed” hallways, he took me aside and asked, “Ken, have you ever thought about writing?” Dumbfounded, and with literary insecurities and inabilities that could fill volumes, I nodded kindly, and replied, “No, not really” and left it at that.
With some element of fear and trepidation, I said yes to my parishioner and contacted Jim Krumel to negotiate a “contract!”
Four-and-a-half years later, though experienced, I hardly claim expertise as a newspaper columnist. In all these years, no mastery has been on display from my ten fingers on a computer keyboard.
Editors and assistants behind the scene did all they could to correct and enhance my regular submissions. I am grateful for their knowledgeable diligence given what they had to work with.
For any and all who took the opportunity over these few years to pay a compliment or to make a suggestion or two as to how I might improve, all I can say is “Thank you!”
At times it’s been tough, but always fulfilling. It can be argued that I’m quitting, but writing for The Lima News these past years have been for me a winning proposition.
And so I stand today at the infamous and imaginary threshold with Truman Burbank. Looking back, and with a grateful and satisfied smile, I join in quaintly declaring, “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org