It's been quite awhile since I've posted, but a lot has happened, I'm excited to start posting regularly again! This week I had a very incredible, grace filled, and mercy filled moment during a Bible study, here is my best attempt to share it.....
Thursday night was the first Bible study of the new school year I had with the baseball team. The guys have eagerly been asking when we would start for over a week so I was happy to finally get things rolling. It’s always exciting and nerve wracking thinking about who will show up, I was hopeful that the usual crowd of guys would come and even more hopeful that there would be some new faces. I was happy to see most of the regulars and happy to welcome 1 new face and a few guys who were occasional attendees last year. Just before we were about to begin one of the guys answered a phone call, I figured it was someone checking on where we were meeting as just before he hung up he told him where we were and what time we would finish. He hung up the phone and said that Walter will call him and ask him to hang out and most of the time he’s happy to do so and willing to do so, but this evening after a long day of class, practice, more class, and Bible study, it was going to be a little too much.
Walter is a guy that is fairly well known… or at least he stands out and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Walter is vision impaired and uses a guide cane to assist him and he’s also not shy. More than once I’ve seen him approach strangers and ask for something or introduce himself. Walter is also a manager/coach for the baseball team at Seton Hall, so everyone in our Bible study knows Walter at some level.
We began the night considering a few questions; what does it mean to live on purpose? And at the end of the school year how will you know if you lived life on purpose. We discussed questions that caused the guys to reflect and look ahead to life after college. We talked about goals, dreams, success and how it is defined, is there a plan for your life or do you create your own…..very thought provoking questions. We talked about happiness and if that’s what defines success, it was pointed out that 11 years ago, there were men that thought they were successful when they flew planes into towers. The question was then posed is there more to life than happiness?
As we were getting ready to end the night in prayer someone knocked at the door, Walter walked in. I was surprised and so were the guys as many of them started to laugh quietly. Walter is a guy some may think comes off as rude, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind or tell it like it is, for some people that’s hard to take. I enjoy being around Walter, he’s always quick to remind me, a Packer fan, how last football season ended since he is a Giant fan. I asked Walter, “We were just talking about what the purpose of life is, what do you think man?” “The purpose of life….” He began. “The purpose of life is to be happy…..win a lot of baseball games…..and live for the Lord.” I think we were all surprised by his last remark. Since we had nearly been there for an hour and we were about to close in prayer I asked Walter if he would join us and some of the other guys encouraged him to sit down with them, which he did. We prayed and as some of us got up to leave ( I was in sort of a rush since the Packer game started about an hour ago) Walter asked me if I would read something to the guys. He said it was an article in the Daily News about him. I couldn’t say no to him, so I sat back down and began to read the story. Walter explained “this is why I haven’t been around the last few days.” I only read the headline of the story in my head…”Greif goes on, but so does spirit” and saw Walter’s picture in the lower right hand corner. The article by Denis Hamill begins…. “It was the best of New York, inside and out. At the 9/11 commemoration, which was exclusively for families of the fallen this year, FDNY Lt. Gerard Chipura spoke about his brother John, whose life he thinks should be an inspirational and action-packed book”. The article had some touching stories, but none more real than 3rd featured in this article. “Inside Walter Matuza, tapped his guide cane through the crowd of mournful family members and spoke of the day 11 years ago when he still had eyesight but learned he’d lost his father. “I was 10 and living in Staten Island and I knew the attacks had happened here at the towers,” he says. “But it was my father’s day off. He wasn’t supposed to work. But there was an awards ceremony at school and he needed a projector that was at work here on the 92nd floor of the North Tower. So he went in just to get the projector. He didn’t make it out. I don’t remember the exact words they said to me that day, but I remember that my mother and my grandmother took me into my parents’ bedroom and I sat on the bed and they told me that my father was never coming home. I was a star baseball player. My dad came to all my games. My favorite time with him was fishing. We’d never do that again. Five months later, I also lost my eyesight.” And 11 years later, he is a baseball coach at Seton Hall University; where he is also studying business. And so the next time I hear people telling me how hard they have it, I’ll tell him to go touch the name of Walter Matuza Sr., engraved for history in the wall around the pool in the footprint of the North Tower. I’ll tell them to think about the blind, 10 year old son he left behind who lifted himself from the darkest of imaginable despair, just like his city, and made himself a promising new life. Like the tower rising beside the memorial.”
Silence. What do you say? Finally I thanked Walter for sharing that story, so did some of the others. Walter said that he just wanted to share more about himself with everyone. No one had any idea that Walter had lost his father or how he had lost him, nor anything about his vision impairment. We were shocked and speechless, but it certainly put things into perspective. I felt guilty that I wanted to rush home to watch a game that essentially does not matter. I went to an event on campus where they were showing “October Baby”, the film is about a young woman who learns that her mother tried to abort her, but it was a failed attempt. I know the story is based on actual events, but don’t know what or how much is true. I had seen the movie in theatre earlier this year, I walked in at a very emotional part where the young woman had tracked down the nurse who assisted at the abortion. The nurse was apologizing for believing what she had been told, that the operation was on “just tissue”. The nurse told the woman that when her mother returned after the failed attempt the nurse took her to the hospital because she was in labor. 1st the young woman’s twin brother was born, who had taken the brunt of the “operation”, the nurse went on to say how beautiful the woman was as she was born and how the girl was adopted and how great those parents were. I thought how this brother gave his life for this woman, his twin sister yes it’s a story, but is it really a stretch to believe something like this could happen? Her brother did not choose to but he did give his life for his sister. I then thought about Jesus Christ who did indeed CHOOSE to die for each one of us. Yet so many people choose not to acknowledge or believe that. What will it take? For people to see the truth!?!? That abortion is murder, brutal murder! And that Jesus Christ is Lord and He loves us all for exactly who we are, just as we are?!!?!? All this and part of me still wanted to get home to watch a game.
Reflecting even more, the experience was very emotional, it was sad, it was surreal. I'm glad Walter chose to come by, I hope he joins us again. Being from Wisconsin I've never known anyone so closely connected with 9/11, but now every 9/11 I'll think of Walter and his father and I'll check myself with the question, am I living on purpose?
There is a lot more to life than we often realize. To live on purpose is hard, but who doesn’t want to? In order to live in such a way I think it’s actually pretty simple: be willing to recognize the need to and actively choose to live for someOne other than ourselves, I believe that only then can one truly live on purpose.