Gordon Terpstra, Spiritual Counselor
Joined HNW 11/2009
In my working life I provide spiritual care for hospice patients. The communities I serve are north of the Skagit River, from Bow to Marblemount. Beyond that, let me share a passion from my non-working life: an activity that occupies half of a calendar year. I am a referee for high school football and basketball games in Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties.
One reason this passion is so vital is that it allows me to remain an athlete even as my playing days are over. In the fall I walk on a high school football field with a whistle, flags, and a striped shirt. In the winter I’m out pounding the high school basketball court. It is so exciting to be under the lights or on the hardwood and manage what I call “organized violence.” First it is essential to master the rules of the game, but it doesn’t stop there. I must also become a master of what are called the mechanics of the game: how the entire crew works together. This is done through positioning, rotating, and taking care of each area as we trust other officials to take care of their areas.
Few fans notice that there is this third team on the field or on the court, and we are as coordinated in our movements as the athletes are in theirs. It’s not just knowing how to play: I must have an instinct for the game, knowing what to call a foul and what to let go because it doesn’t influence the play. Fans don’t realize that under the stripes we are humans too, and we will make mistakes. Our goal is always striving to make sure the game is played on an equal footing for all participants, despite the occasion where an error is made. We are neutral, as we need to be. We never referee a perfect game, but we always strive for excellence. We must pass state rules tests and clinics every season. Hours of study go into our yearly preparations.
So…at night I will manage athletes going at each other with anything but gentleness, and the following morning when I go to work I will seek to be gentle in the spiritual care that is my calling.
The one goal on my bucket list that has yet to come to fruition is to enter the Senior Olympics in my 80’s, winning a gold medal in the discus throw. As I get closer to that milestone, I will continue to referee high school students, and with compassion and dignity be a spiritual guide people for at the end of life.