I am writing this letter on Jackie Robinson Day, a traditional event which occurs annually in Major League Baseball. On this day, baseball fans commemorate and honor the day Jackie Robinson made his major league debut on Opening Day in 1947. In fact, today LA Dodger Stadium unveiled the statue of Jackie Robinson.
To be honest with you, I am not much of a baseball fan but I am fascinated with Jackie Robinson’s story. Like many of the kids we work with he was somewhat of a knucklehead that had many encounters with law enforcement because of the trouble that he and the Pepper Street gang caused. Yet, God had a plan for young Jackie and he had a mama who prayed daily for him in his life as well as a naive and caring minister. I don’t need to remind you of the impact that Jackie made on baseball, however his life made a greater impact on the many children that he taught in Sunday school and the stands he made for justice and equality.
What I also found interesting was another back story to Jackie Robinson. Harley Ham was a young man who loved Jackie Robinson. He knew all his statistics and followed him fervently from Brooklyn to LA. When Harley graduated from college he packed up his wife and one year-old son and traveled from Rapid City, South Dakota to Los Angeles. My understanding is that Harley, as a new civil engineer, had job offers nearby his family, but he chose to be in LA for the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson. My mother in-law tells upon their arrival one of the first things they did was to attend a Dodger game where young Kevin sat on his daddy’s lap.
Harley passed on many life lessons to his son; love and respect your wife and mother, work hard but put your family first, enjoy life and people, and don’t ever forget to laugh. Those gold nuggets were imprinted on Kevin’s heart and mine, so when tragically Harley died at the age of 35 they remained. Jackie once said, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” I do believe that is so true; we all have an opportunity to invest and have an impact on someone’s life. We can encourage, love, cry and stand by those who experience difficulties. That is exactly what Jackie and Harley did and what Kevin is doing today.
City Impact is committed to impact the lives we touch daily, whether it be with our Food Distribution program, our case workers in the Juvenile Detention Center, our therapists who counsel Special Education students or with our Transformation Works team who work with gang kids. Indeed, we’ll never know if there is a Jackie Robinson or Harley Ham amongst them. Thank you for your continued support to the ministry of City Impact.
Because of Jesus,
Betty Alvarez Ham, President
P.S. Rumor has it that Harley’s dad thought Kevin was going to be named Kevin Jackie Robinson Ham :-)