Sometimes we learn life lessons in the most unexpected ways and from the most unlikely sources. Take, for instance, a trip I took with my best friend to an Atlanta Braves game in the late 1970s. For a couple of twelve-year-old boys from South Georgia, it was a big deal. Back then, you could buy a cheap ticket at the old Fulton County stadium and then sit anywhere you found an empty seat. And to top it off, you could wait after the game at a certain gate and catch the Braves players going to their cars. It made it easy to get some big-time autographs.
If you know much about the history of the Atlanta Braves, you know that in the late 1970s they didn’t have much going for them. Sure, they had Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, but in spite of these two great talents, they still had the reputation of being cellar dwellers. I can’t remember whether or not they won the game on that particular night, but I will always remember what happened after the game.
You could basically ambush the players for their autographs as they made their way to their cars after the games. I remember Larry McWilliams and Preston Hannah being extremely nice as they graciously signed our programs while others seemed to be in a hurry and had no time.
Everything was going well for us, and then suddenly it all changed when a big-time player emerged. It was none other than Gene Garber, the man who struck out Pete Rose to end his 44 game hitting streak. A Gene Garber autograph would cap off a great night.
As Gene Garber walked to his car, a bunch of us kids surrounded him asking for his autograph but he was having none of it. He acted as though we did not exist. He ignored our pleas and kept walking to his car. As he opened his car door he turned and looked at us and said, “the problem with you kids is that you don’t know the magic word.”
Before he could close his car door my friend blurted out, “Please Mr. Garber, please.” Surprisingly, Gene Garber rolled down his window and he told my friend to come to him. He did, and Gene Garber signed his program and my friend gave him a big “thank you.” After seeing what happened with my friend, I also came up to the window and said, “Please Mr. Garber.” As I said these magic words, Gene Garber took my program and signed his name. Wow! I just got Gene Garber’s autograph!
As he handed my program back to me, I immediately turned and stared running to find another player. As I was moving away from the car, I will always remember the words that Gene Garber yelled at me.
“Hey kid, you’re welcome!”
Wow! Gene Garber just called me out for not saying thank you. He was kind enough to take the time to sign my program and I didn’t even thank him. I felt like Pete Rose. Gene Garber just sat me down.
In the Bible there is an occasion where Jesus heals ten lepers. In Luke 17, these ten lepers saw Jesus and asked Him to heal them. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. As these men journeyed to the priests, obeying the words of Jesus, they were healed.
After these ten men were healed, Scripture says that only one of them returned and gave thanks. Jesus responded, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?" (Luke 17:17). Only one felt the need to return and to say thank you.
Are you one of the nine? Have you forgotten to be thankful? When was the last time you thanked God for the blessings that He has given you? When was the last time you thanked someone who did something kind for you?
I have to admit that sometimes I am one of the nine. Many times I fail to say thank you and that is wrong. I need to do better. When I was a boy, Gene Garber reminded me to say thank you and I really am glad he did.