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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

Out of the Darkest Night

Sometimes, in a world seemingly consumed by fear and suspicion of “the other,” darkness washes over me and I consider giving into despair.  Sometimes the night seems so long, the sun feels like it will not rise.  Sometimes when someone treats me unfairly in a match, the darkness I feel makes me want to walk off the court.  Or when life treats me unfairly, I want to walk off the face of the earth.  And that is when I turn to others.


On this solstice night, in a world overcome with darkness, on this longest night of the year, I always listen to my friend Peter Mayer’s song, “The Longest Night,” which ends:

Maybe peace hides in a storm

Maybe winter’s heart is warm

Maybe light itself is born

In the longest night of the year

We think, when we are in darkness, that darkness is all there will ever be.  But it is not.


Raman Jayapathy, a former TLC instructor and Gustavus player, sent an answer to one of my blogs on cheating last spring.  Here is one of his stories:

… this happened when I was on the pro tour. I played a match that, if I won, I would earn my first ATP points. I had match point in the third set, served and volleyed and hit a solid cross court volley. The linesman called the ball good and the chair umpire said game, set, match and began saying the match score. The crowd began applauding. I walked toward where my ball landed, and saw that my ball had landed just outside the singles line (we were playing on something like clay). I went to the umpire and told him that my ball was out.  He said the linesman called it good and the match was over. I showed him the ball mark and asked that we continue the match. There was a discussion as to the ruling and the umpire decided to continue the match.

We went back out, and I lost the match. My first chance to get ATP points was gone. After the match, my opponent thanked me and said that most would have accepted the call and moved on to the next round.

I told him I could not, in good conscience, play that way. Even though I always had this philosophy, my coach, Mr. Wilkinson, had a tremendous effect on me in college and as an instructor at Tennis & Life Camps. He further instilled what I believed was a way to play the game, the three crowns of positive attitude, full effort, and good sportsmanship, which I apply to my life to this day.

There is much more to life than the wrongdoing that someone or some group does to you. You can learn from them and move on. You hope that the wrongdoers also learn. But we can only change behaviors by the way we act and live life.

Boy and Betty

35 years ago, Boy and Betty Toy attended TLC as adult campers.  One time.  What they saw, what they learned, what they felt, stayed with them.  Boy has told me many times the impact one statement Steve Wilkinson made that impacted his life forever. Boy says it this way.  “Steve said, ‘Boy, if the ball is 99% out, the ball is good.’  I have never forgotten this.”  Boy and Betty have loved and given to the mission of TLC ever since.

In our dream to sustain TLC for the next 40 years and beyond with our 40 LOVE, $4 Million campaign to raise scholarship and facilities funds, Boy and Betty have now given $200,000 to support endowments in staff development and TLC scholarships for families who would not otherwise be able to afford camp.  They do so with great humility and deep kindness.  Every time I speak with them, see them, email them, I feel light shining through the darkness.

The Anonymous Matches

An anonymous donor just this past week emailed and asked that two gifts they are providing this year – one a $25,000 Endowment to TLC Scholarships, and one a $25,000 gift to the Wilkinson Renovation Fund to replace our old bubble and remodel Swanson Tennis Center – be given as matching challenges.  If we can get enough donors to match these funds, this will double the gift to $100,000!  A match sparks a fire and a fire brings light.  (Sorry for the pun, I just had to do that).


If you would like to consider bringing light in this way to others who will benefit from the TLC mission, you can do so by contacting me at or by clicking here. We are already $1 million towards our $4 million goal!

So I end as I began.  In a world often consumed by darkness, I lift my head and see a light to light my path.  Their names are Peter.  Raman.  Boy and Betty.  Anonymous.  You.

Hold onto the light.  Spread it.  Be it.  It is everywhere if we look around.  Including in ourselves.


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