January 19, 2016,

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

When I was in my early teens, the boys in our neighborhood delighted in playing sandlot baseball. We cleared an open area of brush. We erected a rough chicken wire backstop. We had irregular bases, and played with a softball because anyone could drive a hardball deep into the woods. We divided up our teams not to win but to have competitive games. If the scoring became lopsided we would shift players from one team to the other. This was such a contrast to organized baseball where teams had uniforms and adults told kids what to do. The object was to win. You did become a better baseball player, but having fun was secondary.

In reflecting back, I learned a lot from those neighborhood games. We kids were empowered to make decisions and live with those choices. We negotiated. We worked collegially to solve issues. We tried to be fair because it was the competition that made it fun. Most importantly the field we cleared and designed with our own whacky rules was of our making. The whole enterprise belonged to us kids. Adults stayed away!

On Sunday I returned from a wonderful trip in Haiti. I cannot believe all the mission work taking place in that nation. While the work is important, I wonder if we North Americans are imposing organized baseball on a people who might be better off playing neighborhood, sandlot ball. While U.S. funds might provide great material benefits, shouldn’t the people of Haiti be the ones empowered to shape their destiny? As in gaining insight from the relational teachings of sandlot baseball, I believe it is possible to develop an effective presence in Haiti based upon relationships where money has minimal or no role. With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,