“They’ve taken over,” I said to Brice, my college buddy and fellow summer missionary.
We looked across the softball field. It was covered with leather and chain clad bikers and about thirty Harleys. Many of them had the word ABATE written across their jackets. Most days, I would have just walked by while trying to keep from making eye contact. However, this was not going to be most days. You see, Brice and I had the responsibility of leading a softball game every afternoon at four.
I looked at my watch. It was 3:57.
“Maybe nobody else will show up to play,” he whispered to me.
Almost on cue, we noticed three families walking toward the field carrying ball gloves.
“No such luck,” I repeated.
“Let’s go talk to them,” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Why not? What’s the worst that could happen.”
“They could take our bats and club us with them.”
“Come on,” he said.
Slowly, we walked onto the field, looking like two college dweebs compared to these guys. I noticed one of the bikers rolling his eyes. Another cracked his knuckles. Nobody was smiling.
“Hi,” I said weakly. “How’s it going?”
“It’s hot,” said one of the bikers, wiping his sweat with a bandanna.
“Yeah,” said Brice. “It sure is.”
The same biker, he must have been the spokesman for the group, looked at our badges with a frown.
“Something we can do for you fellas?” he asked.
Timidly, I responded, “Well, uh, yeah. You see, everyday at four, we, uh, lead a softball game right here.”
For a moment, the bikers just looked at us in silence.
I continued. “You see, it’s uh, almost four, uh, right now.”
“Yeah?” said one of the bikers. “What about it?”
Brice smiled and asked, “Do you guys want to play? We’ve got plenty of extra gloves.”
The members of ABATE once again stared at us and then at each other.
Finally, one of the members smiled and said, “Nothing else to do in this heat. Sounds like fun. Come on, guys. Let’s get these bikes off the field.”
Within a few minutes, we had chosen up teams (we made two bikers the team captains) and were playing ball. Many of the members of ABATE could really hit the ball hard, but their jeans, leather, and chains kept them from running very fast. Some of the bikers even had their lady friends run the bases for them.
By the end of the game, however, we weren’t summer missionaries, park staff, campers, and bike members. We were all just people playing a game, having fun.
I learned a big lesson from Brice that day. When people seemingly place themselves between you and your goals, sometimes the best solution is to involve them in your process.
By the way, my team won the game that day. That’s how I beat the ABATE Motorcycle group. Well, at least half of them. The other half of them were on my team.
Years after the above event happened, my friend Brice shared with me that the word abate actually meansI’ve learned that ABATE stands for American Bikers Active Toward Education. In addition to riding, they participate in motorcycle safety education as well as other charitable and humanitarian activities.