“Where I come from there is no tomorrow, only today.”
Hearing those words, you might think of an immigrant from a military state or someone who has known poverty to the extreme and just barely escaped. You’d definitely think of someone with an extraordinarily difficult life. You likely wouldn’t think of a millionaire athlete who took major league baseball by storm last summer, plays in the bright lights of Los Angeles, and winters in beautiful South Florida. But Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who said those hard words in an interview with ESPN’s Tim Keown, is all of the above.
Just as much as you might not envision a well-heeled star athlete saying these words, you likely can’t envision the meaning of the words themselves. The reality behind them is a slap in the face to comfortable America, a real sucker punch. We know nothing of the sort of poverty or oppression that so deeply engrains itself in the psyche that one cannot think of tomorrow. For most of us, tomorrow is everything. We have a plan. The sun will come out tomorrow, after all. Opportunities will arise, and if they don’t come to us we will go to them. But it is not so for the desperately poor in our country and others, for those who face such daily dangers and fears that tomorrow is not a sure thing. Most of us cannot, even if we try, truly understand the depth of power that sort of hopelessness has in forming a mindset and a pattern of life.
Yet we scoff at Yasiel Puig’s antics on the baseball diamond and accuse him of loafing or “disrespecting the game.” We question his maturity and character when he is stopped multiple times for reckless driving. And what about other athletes, those who go broke shortly after finishing lucrative careers or find themselves in consistent trouble with the law because of violence or substance abuse? Why are we so ready to hold them to our standard, one we consider moral yet is really intertwined with our preferred cultural realities?
Wrong actions are wrong actions and foolishness is foolishness, but we go too far when we attach character judgments and sinful motives as if we understand the cause. Try to put yourself in the mind of someone who lives as if tomorrow may not come, not in an “Eat, drink, and be merry” way but rather a “What have I to lose?” way. The cause for their decisions is not stupidity, discernment, or maliciousness, but hopelessness. What is needed is light in the darkness, an open door. It cannot be easy to go from the land of no tomorrows to the land of opportunity. And it must be even harder when you find many of those opportunities offer as little hope as poverty. They need perspective, not just of what is and is not right today but also where true hope lies in all the tomorrows of eternity.