Some of my fondest memories of my childhood revolve around Meadowlark Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters. To this day, I can still see myself sitting in front of the television to watch what basketball artistry he would wow the crowd with next. Whether it was his “no-look, wrap-around pass”, his half-court hook shot, or his charming wit, I was mesmerized.
Meadowlark was an American institution. He could always make me laugh and put a smile on my face. I even recall not wanting to go to church with my parents one Saturday evening as it would interfere with watching the Globetrotters on ABC’s Wide World of Sports (I offered to ride my bike to Mass the following morning, but my parents would hear nothing of it). Anything just to watch Meadowlark!
Now, fast-forward 40 years later: I am present in the St. Vincent de Paul downtown Phoenix Dining Room on an early Monday morning. I am surrounded by 200 homeless men and women who are all listening to Meadowlark Lemon, the “Clown Prince of Basketball” who is speaking to the group. Forty years later and I find myself the same little boy, just as mesmerized. Meadowlark still made me laugh and he still made me smile, but this time there was something else … the “grownup” in me suddenly appreciated him for much more than his unique basketball capabilities and humor.
Meadowlark’s zest for his faith and his love for God touched me deeply. As I sat there, I listened intently on what he was saying; his genuine passion for reading the Bible, his ability to quote scripture, his insistence that we get our priorities straight, his constant reminder that we must “Never Give Up.”
The simple fact that Meadowlark Lemon came to St. Vincent de Paul to reach out to several hundred of the most vulnerable members of society truly stuck me. It was a humbling experience I will not soon forget.
And while I still admire Meadowlark for his basketball talent and comic genius, I now see him in a whole new light. He has become a loyal supporter of serving those in need, and I am grateful to have met him and to have again seen him in action, not on a court, but instead, in a dining room. It is people like Meadowlark who make St. Vincent de Paul so special.
Thank you Meadowlark for all that you do. You continue to make me laugh and smile, only now, it is accompanied with my admiration and respect.