I have written before about bowling with Jesus. I did so with tongue squarely lodged in my cheek. But yesterday afternoon I did watch Jesus bowl. He takes the strangest forms sometimes.
I had accompanied my friend B. to the tenpin lanes in Manchester, New Hampshire, where B. entered a tournament. As B.’s chances of qualifying waned, thanks to 10-pins that stubbornly refused to fall, despite massive destruction to the rest of the rack, I wandered away to the opposite end of the lanes. It’s there I saw Jesus.
He was in his late 20s, dressed in a t-shirt and cargo pants, with a scruffy growth on his face, tattoos up and down both arms, and a stud in each ear. I saw him pick up a bowling ball from the rack. It looked too light for him, but by this time my preconception machinery was working at its best, and I had him pegged as a no-count tough with little to recommend him.
The young man carried the ball toward lane #33 and stopped next to a little girl in a wheelchair. He put the ball down in the return rack and pushed the girl to the foul line. There he set up a slide contraption that allowed the girl to roll the bowling ball by giving it a little push at the top of the slide. The lane had bumpers in the gutters so that a mis-thrown ball would ricochet back toward the pocket.
I watched for the next half-hour as daughter and what must have been her father, tattoos and all, rolled the ball down the slide, squealed with joy, laughed, and high-fived each other after almost every shot. When they were done, the man wheeled his daughter past me, and I complimented her on her bowling.
“Did you hear that?” Dad said. And the girl smiled up at him, not me. It made my day.
Eliminated from the tournament, B. joined me on lane #30 and promptly rolled a three-game score that would have made him the top qualifier, had he rolled it in competition. This included a near-perfect game of 278—all strikes but for a spare in the ninth. Meanwhile, I was messing the bed, failing to break 100 two games in a row. That may not have made B.’s day, but we had some good laughs about it.