An unexpected blessing…

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by Debi Cloninger McDaniel

I did something good today. I went uptown to the celebration honoring professional football star, Shelby’s own Bobby Bell. It was hot and I was hurting and I was feeling blue on what should have been my 50th wedding anniversary, and I almost didn’t go, but because I remember my daddy talking so admiringly about the Bell family when I was a little girl, I felt pushed to go.

Somehow my daddy knew Bobby’s daddy, Pink, as most people in Shelby seemed to. I don’t remember why or in what context daddy spoke of Mr. and Mrs. Bell, but I remember that anytime he mentioned them, the words, “ They are such fine folks,” followed their names. Later, as an adult, I crossed paths with some of those fine Bell folks. Lucretia Bell was one of Shelby City Schools’ finest social workers. Erika Warthen (also a Bell) was one of my finest sixth grade students, and Bryan Bell was one of our finest and most faithful blood donors when I coordinated and recruited for the blood drives at our church.

So anyway, as I headed uptown, I was thinking about the Bells that I know and that attending this event would be my way of showing my respect and appreciation for the fine family they are. I had no way of knowing that God was nudging me to attend this event for another reason. Almost all of the stories that were told today about Bobby and by Bobby were about perseverance and resilience…Fighting through the hurt and pushing on. The story that really touched me and brought me to tears (and laughter) was about the first time Bobby’s parents got to attend a college game when he played for the University of Minnesota. During the game, Bobby was tackled and broke several ribs. (If you’ve ever broken a rib, you know how painful that is!) Bobby’s daddy, Pink, went down to the field house where they were treating Bobby. Pink told Bobby that he and Mrs. Bell hadn’t come all the way to Minnesota to see their injured son lying on a table. Then Pink went back to the stands. Bobby looked at the trainer and said, “Tape me up, Snapper. I’m going back in. “

There is no question that Bobby had to push through a great deal of pain that day but he finished the game and the season. So thank you, Bobby. Those words resonated with me. From now on, on days like today when my heart is breaking and I just want to curl up and stay in bed, I’m going to try my best to push through the pain. “Tape me up, Lord. I’m going back in.”

Debi Cloninger McDaniel was married to Chris McDaniel for almost 50 years. She studied Language Arts and Reading at UNC Chapel Hill, and is a retired teacher.