October 21, 2007

Just To Be In The Game

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?"

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe, that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!"

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.

"That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world."

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!


We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up those opportunities and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?

A wise man once said: "Every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them."

I often wonder how this society is being judged. I suppose it all comes down to perspective, and the particular place you hold in said society. It takes a really wise man to figure that one out.

At times, some of us are happy to be allowed "just to be in the game, and on the field," too.


rockync said...

"the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world."

Sometimes kids understand better than anyone what it takes to be a stand up human being. No political divides, no corporate ladder climbing for them. Just kids giving another kid a chance.
Great story!

Jan said...

rockync..Amen to that!

sue said...

So very true.

Anonymous said...

I hope that's a true story. My experience of life would indicate that sometimes, very rare things like that do happen.

Jan said...

Hermit..the story is a work of Rabbi Paysach Krohn who writes "heartwarming stories and parables of wisdom and inspiration," as described by his publishers.

Rabbi Krohn says that the story is true, and that it was told to him by Shay's father, who is a friend, and was relayed at a fundraiser at the Jewish Center for Special Education on Kent St. in Brooklyn, NY.

The story has received some negative remarks as to its inspirational ability to create a desire to improve, but rather says that its message is likely to do more harm than good.. the reason being its "incitement to bestow upon the disabled, a pat on the head instead of granting them acceptance for who they are, even when that means accepting the limitations placed upon them by their infirmities," and "This story counsels that perfection be one of pity and dismissal of the actual person."

I just thought that it was a really nice, inspirational story, and wanted to share it.

It's true that such things rarely happen in life, but it is nice to think that maybe they could..at least we can still dream, can't we?

Vin De Vine said...

You might be surprised how often that sort of thing happens, we tend to focus on the sensationalized news and not the les exciting every day courtesies and acts of kindness that go on around us. Too often those actions are taken for granted and pass unnoticed. and when a good deed is brought forward in the public eye it is usually stained and sullied by some political addendum stuck to the action like a legislative bill rider. You not supposed to praise the hero without praising his sponsor...

Anonymous said...

Anyone who criticizes the kindness shown to the disabled has never had a person with a disability in their family. For people with a disability, life is ever harder than it is for those who don't, and life is murderously difficult for the "don't" crowd. My son is dyslexic, and any help people have given him has both improved his quality of life, and enhanced his chances of success.

Jan said...

vin..It sometimes seems that people cannot see the good in anything..always looking for ulterior motives for any positive things that others do.

Jan said...

hermit..anyone who has dealt with dyslexia knows how frustrating that can be.

My son was diagnosed with it in first grade, and underwent all kind of testing, being put into special classes, being humiliated, you name it. As it turned out, he was not dyslexic at all. It just so happened that he is left-handed, which caused many of his problems, because he simply couldn't adjust to a classroom designed and furnished for only right-handed people. You'd think that someone would have noticed that before putting him through two years of unneccessary torture, but that just happened to be the time when dyslexia was the "in" diagnosis for kids. At least he was lucky enough to miss out on the "in" diagnosis of ADH, which so many of our youth have been wrongly misdiagnosed with the past few years.

Btw..my son had an IQ of 137, which was discovered a few years later, but because of his "dyslexia" he was put into a special ed class for over a year.

The stupidiity inherent in some educational systems overwhelms me, and yeah, any little act of kindness and consideration for any kind of handicap is so appreciated...if only people knew how much.