A hot, humid evening. Bugs in the grass and bugs in the air. A small, rural southern town. A humble baseball field off an unnamed road. Rough bleachers. A concession stand selling frozen pickle juice and overpriced sunflower seeds. Twenty-some boys, all 10 years old. I was about to witness one of the most beautiful, touching, memorable events in all my experience as a mother.
My son was one of those 10-year-old boys. We were the visiting Purple team. The home team was Red. Despite our best efforts, we were losing badly.
And then it happened. As my son later said of the moment, “The game changed. It was like we were just a bunch of kids playing in the backyard.” And no, we did not mount a miraculous comeback. Or did we?
Red was up to bat and sent a new player to the plate; a boy with Down Syndrome. I looked out at the Purple pitcher and desperately prayed, “Lord, please let him get it. Just like with his brothers. Does he get it?” Because the pitcher was my son. To my joy, the first pitch was a slow lob, nothing like what my lefty usually fires in to the catcher. And then I knew – he got it.
The batter never swung and was walked. Through the next few plays, I watched on the verge of tears as our team made half-hearted attempts to get the runner out. By the time this sweet boy was running home as fast as he could go, I was hoping our catcher would let him score. But we really needed an out.
The throw came home in plenty of time, but as if in slow motion, the 10-year-old catcher stepped to the side, applying the gentlest, slightest tag ever, allowing the runner to cross home plate in triumph, while quietly gaining an out. The umpire silently and subtly gave the out signal while everyone – Red, Purple, coaches, parents – cheered, understanding that in that moment, every boy there had won. They all got it, and I am so proud of them.
Writing about this event makes me cry. Maybe because we are so often tempted to ask why there have to be children with delays, challenges, sickness, disabilities, differences. Why did God create them this way? Maybe because we need them. We need them so we can learn to be compassionate, to love selflessly, to put others before ourselves, to consider the weaker ones among us. As John 9:3 says of why a man was born blind, “so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Could it be that my children don’t have special needs as much as they have special purposes? I believe so.
A hot, humid evening. Bugs in the grass and bugs in the air. A small, rural southern town. A humble baseball field off an unnamed road. Rough bleachers. A concession stand selling frozen pickle juice and overpriced sunflower seeds. Twenty-some boys, wise beyond their years, who know there is more than one way to win.