Back when I was just a lad in the late 70s, grammar school was pretty boring. Believe it or not, I recall most of my teachers literally telling our class that they were a year or two away from retirement. There was no zest — no life in the content delivery. Worst of all, we stayed cooped up in the same classroom pretty much all day. (Not much movement from class to class for different subjects in NYC grammar school in the late 70s/early 80s). However, there was one time each week when we moved to a different room that I do recall fondly. Each Thursday, young children of African decent made their way down the hallway and entered a classroom for a lesson in Career Education.
What made Career Education different was that it was taught by a teacher of color. While this may seem slightly biased, understand that I don’t recall seeing very many teachers of color in school (even though my neighborhood was about 99.9% people of color.) I did have a few Caucasian teachers who seemed to really care, but Dr. Miles (our Career Ed teacher) had kids at home that looked like us. And we could tell. She was tough. But she put a lot of effort into working with us.
I vividly recall the events of one day in Career Education class. We were given a simple task. Write in our 2nd Grade Notebooks what we wanted to be when we grew up. The answers started from the rear. (I was sitting up front.) There were some really inspiring answers.
“Miss Miles….I want to be a lawyer.”
“Miss Miles….when I grow up, I’m going to be a fire fighter”. (That answer came from a young lady.)
“Miss Miles… I want to be President.”
It was beautiful. Strangely enough, I was just about the last person to answer. But I’m sure I was the first to be done with the assignment. You see, back then I already knew what I wanted to do. I had known since I was five.
“And Mr. Grant…..what do you have for us? What would you like to be?”
“Misses Miles…..when I grow up…. I want to be…. WWF Champion.”
At first there were snickers…. then a few chuckles. Finally, after seeing the smile on Dr. Miles’ face, the entire class broke out in a huge guffaw. It lasted for what felt like about 45 seconds or so. Once the laughing settled, like any good Career Education teacher should do, she encouraged me. “If that’s what you want, then you go do it.”
Keep in mind that when I was a WWF fan at age five, Hulk Hogan hadn’t debuted yet. In fact, he was still training in Venice. The WWF Champion was one Bob Backlund, a red headed All-American boy. He didn’t have compelling “mike/promo skills”. (Actually very few wrestlers spoke well in front of a microphone back then.) But he did have my heart in his hands. He wasn’t flashy. He didn’t talk loudly or scream at the camera. He just went in the ring and showed his heart. Great mat wrestler. And Backlund held on to the belt from roughly February of 1978 until 1983 (with a few swaps of the title along the way.) Five years as champion. I remember almost being in tears when he lost the belt. (Almost.) 🙂
One embarrassing note is that I once wrote a letter to Pro Wrestling Illustrated asking them to ask Bob Backlund to ‘come to my birthday party on February 8.’ I remember waiting thinking that it could happen. Even more embarrassing, I recall actually praying to God that I could meet him one day. I prayed for that (among other things like world peace) regularly as a child.
Of course time moves on and those dreams of becoming champion (or even just a wrestler) started to fade. I had a short amateur wrestling career in High School and decided that it probably wasn’t the best thing for me. And so you move on and even though you still watch wrestling and you go to a few matches, your life changes. You consider different careers. You find different hobbies. You change.
But one thing is for certain. God does not change.
In the summer of 2000, a fellow wrestling fan of mine from work asked if I’d like to go with him to the Nassau Colosseum to a live taping of Monday Night Raw. The storylines were great at that time and I decided I would go. (The matches were so-so that night. I don’t remember much.) But one thing I recall very vividly. There were exits to the parking lot all around the arena. I happened to be leading our pack of five out to the car. As I was headed for the door, something out of the corner of my left eye caught my attention. There was a table set up where people seemed to be lining up. Being nosy, I walked over to see what was going on. And there, before my eyes… wearing a red bow tie and white shirt …. was my childhood hero.
Bob Backlund had been running for office in Connecticut that year. He was trying to raise campaign funds. That night he was surely going to get my money. I stood in line for a few minutes and as I shook his hand, I drew a complete blank. I remember uttering something completely stupid about knowing when he won the title. He was pretty gracious. I bought a shirt and an autographed picture from him. The entire experience lasted about two minutes. And to be completely honest, by then, I wasn’t quite as excited about meeting him. But that wasn’t the point.
The true point of my story is that God is faithful. I’m so positive that the entire experience was by His hand. I remember almost declining the offer to go. (It was a Monday night and I probably wouldn’t get home until 1am.) But something inside pushed me to go. And so, regardless of the fact that I grew to realize that even during Backlund’s time, there were better wrestlers who I wasn’t aware of, it didn’t matter. God had made a promise to me back then (even though I didn’t know it) and He surely kept it. Whether I wanted it anymore or not.
Don’t think that God has forgotten about your request. The scripture shows us that He works in His own time. It might take longer than you want it to, but you’ll understand why it did later.
“…Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be...”
Excert from Great Is Thy Faithfulness