Back when our youngest son was in the 8th grade, we were on vacation in Sarasota, Florida.  He was a very competent tennis player and at thirteen and we were looking for a place for him to hit.  It was Monday, Brad had talked to the director on the phone over the weekend. Dad & son showed up.  They arrived before 8am to meet the coach and make introductions.   The courts were all full at the Sarasota Bath and Racquet Club where the Celsius Tennis Academy was located, mostly on the back courts and kids were starting to arrive.  Bath and Racquet was where serious tennis happened in town. After a brief conversation, Cary looked at Zach and said, “Zach, we’re glad to have you, come on and show us what you’ve got” and that was the beginning of an experience that helped shape the future of our youngest child.  The week was so successful tennis-wise and socially for our son that we made the decision to pull him out of school in Michigan for second semester of the eighth grade and then into high school.  We ended up home schooling him, I stayed in Sarasota with him. Cary helped him develop into a collegiate athlete, gaining a division one scholarship, he made some good friendships, learned that education can be attained differently, he played tennis with some of the best young players in the world  and he had the opportunity to travel to play in Europe.  Participating an individual sport teaches you that when you are on the court solo, YOU have to make things happen on your own.  That tennis experience that began with Cary Cohenour that November morning, taught Zach a lot and was the spring board to so much in his 25 years, to eventually, New York City and his own Tech Company.   

     We received word almost a year ago, March 27, 2023, Cary died unexpectedly.  A young man, in the prime of his life, having had a professional tennis career playing on the ATP Tour, he told me his favorite place to play in was Italy-he loved the people and the food, then coming back to his hometown of Sarasota, Florida to open Celsius Tennis Academy and work with his Dad who had rental in town.   Cary trained as a teenager with Nick Bollettieri and Monica Seles, who at the time lived in Sarasota, was a good friend along with other former APT players who also lived in the area.  Cary was in good physical shape, he was one of those people who did the things one is supposed to do in life to take care of themselves, and yet,  he’s gone, in the prime of his life.  You could say he had, “Played the Odds.”

     Again, almost a year ago, the same day, in the morning, parents dropped their children off at school around the country.  Little did the parents and staff of The Covenant School know that in a couple of hours their lives would forever be changed.  A lone shooter, entered the building a little after ten, killing  three children and three adults.  The parents of these three children had “played the odds” by deciding to send their children to a Christian school, wanting their children to  receive a both religious and academic education.  They may have weighed the decision to send their children to a private school to avoid some of the problems public schools face like larger class size, a secular curriculum and wanting their children to go to school with children from likeminded families.  And, likewise, maybe the adults who were killed weighed the decision to work there for similar reasons, choosing to work in a smaller environment, possibly making less in pay to work in a Christian environment to work in a ‘less stressful environment’ with smaller class size and the other benefits that come from working in a private school, yet, these six individuals will no longer go home to their families. 

     March 28, 2023, that same week, two army helicopters crashed in a 4 helicopter training mission.  The crash occurred very near a residential area.  It is possible that those on board were aware that they were going down and purposefully avoided the populated  area, it is not known for sure.  Most likely, they had practiced, did their homework and checked all boxes to ‘play the odds’ yet they went down and perished anyway.  

     Evan Gershkovich, 31, was born to parents who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union.  He was raised in New Jersey.  He is  currently employed by the Wall Street Journal, he had already logged many hours reporting on Russian and  international affairs traveling back and forth to Russia from his base in London. He has reported on Russia for the past six years.  Much of his work examines the fallout from Russia’s Ukrainian campaign, communicating with Russian citizens and soldiers.  Evan was arrested that same week in the Russian town of Yekaterinburg on the suspicion of espionage.    Some may call it playing with fire to criticize a character like Vladimir Putin in his own country, while on the ground in Russia. You could say that Evan was NOT ‘playing the odds.’ He is still being detained in Russia, maybe to be used as an eventual hostage exchange, who knows.

     Every week brings at least one unimaginable tragedy.  We read, watch or listen, wondering how a family or a community can move forward because we can only imagine that one does not move on, only the only way we can go on in life.  It seems as if our world, our country is filled with so much division.  At one time, is was acceptable to agree to disagree and neighbors or friends could have two different points of view on a variety of topics, yet there was respect for one another.  We can point to Ronald Regan and Tip O’Neil, or Supreme Court Justices who were very good friends, yet held at times different view points, Ruth Badger Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley or Nickola Tesla and Mark Twain.  We don’t have to agree with one another on every point and we don’t have to be best friends with someone, however, respect for everyone is a good and healthy way to live.  

     The problems our country our facing are numerous from violence, to political discourse, to lack of support for law enforcement, to distrust in the government, issues in public education, involvement in international crisis to high inflation and an unstable economy.  the sad thing is that most of these problem are somewhat manufactured and pretty much solvable.  Elected officials might recommend throwing money at problem, more laws and more restrictions.  Of course law are part of a sophisticated society.  However,  looking at starting small  with simple solutions could possibly make the largest impact.  One might look at HOW the country actually got to this point.  

       William Cook, University of Michigan Law School Alumni, held in high regard the significance of the American Family and said that, “HOME is the Nation’s Safety,”  The Home and the Family are where values are taught, such as respect for God, one another, life, country and authority.  When a society no longer holds these in high esteem, expect chaos.  Take a look at those who are responsible for the mass shootings, they usually come from extremely dysfunctional home lives, where there is no positive male role model, no one to teach respect for God, life, country or authority and the same could be true for those who commit a myriad of other crimes across the board.  When there are strong families who teach children what is valuable to hold true and respect for authority, you see stability.  Families and homes don’t have to all look the same, but the values that are taught are what is constant in homes that raise and send out into the world good people who know how to live by The Golden Rule, “To treat others the way that they would hope to be treated” which pretty much says it all.  

      Next week begins Holy Week for Christians around the world, where the last days of Jesus Christ, prior to his crucifixion, the day of his death on Good Friday and then finally celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday, are remembered and honored.  Jesus’s time on earth was brief, somewhere between thirty-three and thirty-six years according to accounts.  His ministry was just three years yet he made an impact that has affected generations and centuries.  Jesus didn’t promise us a rose garden or that life  would be easy.  He said that there would be trials and tribulations during a life on this earth.  He didn’t come and associate with the high and mighty or live in an ivory tower.  He associated with lepers, tax collectors (who at the time were considered dishonest), prostitutes and the outcasts of society.  He told parables to teach valuable lessons to the crowds.  The leaders of his time, considered him once who caused a ruckus with his lessons of forgiveness and respect for one another.

       It’s easy to become disillusioned with all the evil and bad we are experiencing or witnessing, yet, Jesus didn’t promise us life on this earth would be easy or that it would be without difficulties and hardship.  Over the last few years, it has been very easy to get down about the problems at hand.  Being reminded of the sinful world we are living in and that all of this was predicted doesn’t make it better but it does confirm to me that this is temporary and that what is to come when we our time is up here, WILL be  a place where there is no more sorrow or tears.  If we each do our part to try to make our world a better place, using the gifts we were given, it can make our time here and they journey a little brighter.  I’ve come to realize that for me, maybe it’s about “Managing Expectations.”  Those who lost their lives this coming week one year ago , Cary, the three children and three adults at Covington Elementary School and the nine Marines at Fort Campbell in the helicopter crash, it was THEIR time to end their journey here, and although it is hard for us to understand, God has a plan and we each have a designated time here that only he knows.   Those who we lost this week used the gifts they were given by God for good, to inspire children, to protect our Nation and to be the apple of their parents, grandparents and siblings’ eyes probably teaching them lesson they will remember for the rest of THEIR lives.  This is the way it is, we have no alternative.  There is no place we can escape to or hide from.  We have to face life head on, the good, the bad and the ugly. We play the odds to give us the best chance of survival and success and we can manage our expectations based on what we know, so that even on the tough days, we can say…It’s a Great Day ❤️

Author, Mary Yana Burau