I work as a reporter for our town’s newspaper. It isn’t my only job, I’ll get into that later, but it has taught me quite a bit. Recently while interviewing someone for a story, the person I was speaking with finished a thought with the following phrase:
God writes straight on crooked lines.
This stuck with me all week. It was like God himself had sent me a message I needed.
To put it bluntly, I was overwhelmed.
As a senior at the University of Kentucky, I had just crawled past the midway point of the semester. 18 credit hours, 40 work hours, four or five different responsibilities, 10-12 hours in the car a week. I was exhausted. I felt like the world was stepping back for the knock out punch in the middle of the 15th round of a heavyweight fight. I didn’t know how much I had left.
Then I heard that phrase, and I realized God was working.
When you’ve been stretched and pushed beyond your limits, your mind starts to change. You don’t pay attention to some of the nonsensical stuff, you pay attention to your purpose. You constantly remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. You constantly remind yourself that it isn’t supposed to be easy. You constantly talk to God asking for direction. In that time of meditation and inward thought, you often find that God has been working on you. You remember that everything you are doing has a purpose.
I grew up in Harrodsburg, KY. It’s the oldest settlement in the state, and sometimes it feels that way. Factory work and farm labor dominate the terrain, while a few fast food places and grocery stores fill in the in-between. Not much ever really changes or develops, and that isn’t a bad thing. Around 8,000 people call it home, and they look for the Mercer County Titans to defend their home in the realm of athletics.
But it wasn’t always that way.
In 2006 our two public schools merged. Harrodsburg and Mercer came together to unite the Pioneers and Scotties as Titans. It was a novel idea on paper, combine our resources and stand as one united front for our community and students.
The united Titans rallied to win a state championship in football the first year together. I remember it like it was yesterday. Everyone does.
I remember sitting in the blistering cold watching our small community stand behind our team as they hoisted that trophy. It represented pride, hard work, effort, and above all, unity.
I’ll never forget seeing a sign in the hands of a woman on main street that night as our Titans came home. It had the names of some Harrodsburg football players that had passed away years ago that would have loved to hoist that trophy up themselves. I remember the emotion. I remember seeing our entire community stand on main street as our guys held that trophy up.
We never felt closer.
Remembering the Titans still comes easily, but remembering Harrodsburg and Mercer becomes harder. It doesn’t get talked about often. A couple of years ago the former Harrodsburg High School was sold to the public to cut costs for the district, after that it sat empty.
That’s not to say there was no effort put into the building, it was just a lot for anyone to take on. Groups came together to begin working on salvaging it, but it needed something that a mop and new bulbs couldn’t replace.
It needed life.
I was a Scottie for one year, then a Titan. I attended the Harrodsburg school for one year when it was classified as a 9th Grade Academy for a few years. I loved it. My mother graduated from those halls in 1977, I met some of my best friends that year I was there. There was a pride being in that building.
If you’ve never been in the building, it is impossible to describe, but you never feel alone. That isn’t to say it is haunted or anything like that, but there is an energy you can’t ignore. It feels like it speaks with every turn of a corner. Everyone always wonders what walls would say if they could speak, but in their own way they do every day. From text books filled with the names of students in the school, to the locker rooms where Pioneer teams prepared to battle on the court and the gridiron, or the hallways where countless memories of life are still alive and kicking in the minds of those who once inhabited it, the building is alive.
One night I went walking around the halls, reminiscing. I know you won’t believe me, but I feel like I could hear it. Not a voice, not a ghost or anything like that, but I could hear and see what this place represented. The pride that so many had in that building was overwhelming. Despite its cosmetic flaws there was a pride in me for it. It was a crooked line, and as we learned earlier, God writes on those.
When I moved to Harrodsburg in 2005, I’ll be honest, I hated leaving Lexington. I had friends I loved, streets I knew, Churches I liked, it was home. I was afraid of never finding home again.
Harrodsburg greeted me with open arms. I never felt like a stranger, or an outcast. I never felt like a new kid. I was one of Harrodsburg’s immediately. It became home.
When I went back to Lexington in 2014 to finish my college education, I had started a group called 859approved. It connected people through sneakers and community, and became a community of its own. It has a following of over 20,000 across all platforms. We held open meet ups at restaurants to let people come out and meet each other. We brought out leadership. We wanted to see changes in our community and we knew it started with our youth.
When I came back to Harrodsburg, I wanted to do that again. The only problem was, I was a crooked line. I had my interests and thoughts stretched everywhere, I felt like I was trying to find my footing again. Then one afternoon, I ran into Sean Tyree. Sean was starting a basketball team at Campbellsville’s new regional campus in Harrodsburg. We spoke for over an hour at the C & T Deli in town. We found that we had a similar goal, we wanted to create leaders. We wanted to give our community something to believe in. Before I knew it, I was involved in this basketball team as the assistant coach. God was writing.
We’ve heard all the rumors and comments. People say it’s a “rag-tag” team of guys thrown together for no purpose. People say we aren’t ready to play “real schools” with “real teams”, but what they don’t see or say is how “real” our team really is.
Our guys know who they are, but let me tell you for them.
There is a hunger in each of them to prove the world wrong. To prove that they can compete with anybody at anytime. To get a degree and secure a brighter future for their kids one day. What people don’t talk about is how the players occasionally miss a practice because they have to work, or because they are in class. They don’t cut corners. They have more responsibility on their shoulders than people give them credit for. They hold down basketball while being full time students, some of them full time employees, some of them full time fathers. They know how difficult this challenge will be. They don’t run from it, they run to it. They know that nothing comes easy in Harrodsburg. They know that this is an opportunity this community has never had before. They know there will be people trying to knock them down, and they are ready to get back up.
God is writing.
When some of the guys from Lexington joined the team, I showed them around town. One thing we kept talking about was ghosts. Every small town has its own legends and tales, but the truth is, we are a town full of spirits. They are engrained in our hearts every moment of our lives.
It’s like earlier when I mentioned you could feel that energy in our gym at the Harrodsburg High School, there’s a spirit that each of these guys are fighting for as well. I’ll use myself as an example.
I never thought I would be in a position like this. I was always trying to find my calling, or what I wanted to represent. Remember at the beginning when I told you how our minds change when we are pushed? It is in those moments when God talks to you, when He uses you. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to think about what my purpose is in this portion of my life. One thought that keeps coming back to me is my early years.
Before Lexington, I was in Harrodsburg. My earliest memories come from the home I first remembered out on Handy Pike. I remember going to visit my mother’s uncle, Paul Mac Jenkins, a man who had special needs, but didn’t let them hold him down. He found pure joy in believing in something. For him, it was Santa Claus. I still remember seeing his bedroom full of Santa Claus dolls, the joy he had because he believed Santa was a man that could walk through his living room on Christmas Eve every year. I remember Carolyn making deserts that would sit in a cake dish that everyone would clamor for. I remember the few times I knew my grandfather, everyone knew him as “Mutt.” I remember my grandmother always being close with me, even though I never had the privilege to grow up with her around. I remember going to Gateway and having that hometown market, and going to see the fire trucks when my parents would drive me by them. All of those memories are still vivid to me. I don’t talk about them much, but I remember them all the time.
That’s what Harrodsburg is to me. We may not have much, but we have each other. Everyone knows everyone, everyone takes care of everyone. No one is ever forgotten here. Like I mentioned earlier, people made sure that those who had passed on could be there for that 2006 state title.
That’s why this team has the opportunity to do something special. We embody our community. We come to work and punch our time clock and start our grind. There’s nothing glamorous about us. We’re a group of gritty guys with a chip on our shoulder to defend our hometown, and a heart full of emotion for the spirits all around this community.
Everyone remembers the Titans.
Now it is time for us to give them something new to remember.
Our community has it’s fair share of problems. Drugs have ravaged our families and youth. We’re engaged in a war every day with heroin in our town. We are fighting a monster that has several faces. We are fighting a fleeting youth, a slowing of development, a question of what do we do next? Our town sometimes begins to feel distant. There hasn’t been something for everyone to rally around in a long time. We want to change that.
Not only that, but we want to give them something to believe in. We believe in each other, this school, this team, and this massive dream. We believe in Harrodsburg, just like Harrodsburg always believed in us growing up.
We believe we can bring this community something special. We believe we can make this town believe again. We believe God can use us to fulfill his purpose. We are a bunch of crooked lines, but God brought us all here for a reason.
We believe He’s writing a story, and we believe it’s going to be one to remember.
Come watch the Tigers come home for the first time on Wednesday, November 1 at the Harrodsburg High School. The Tigers welcome the Georgetown Tigers at 7 p.m.