Choose to Make it a Special Day

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members ; the last, the least, the littlest.”
Cardinal Roger Mahony (1998)

What would you do?  You make the choice. Don’t look for a punch line, there isn’t one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?

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.

Boy playing baseball

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.

Applause

‘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?

May your day be a Shay Day.

My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end.  Nothing is easier than fault finding.  All it will do is discolor my personality so that none will want to associate with me.  That was my old life.  No more.
Og Mandino

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28 responses to “Choose to Make it a Special Day

  1. I hope everyone would make that same choice. Youth athletics has become so competitive at times, it’s more of a battle between parents and coaches. May there be more stories like this one told, and may we all make a difference in someone else’s life–for the better.

  2. Beautiful story. I agree 100% with patti.

  3. I have seen this before…brought a lump to my throat…again!

  4. Very touching story! Thank you for sharing. There are people out there that are compassionate after all.

  5. The story brought tears to my eyes. I’ve noticed that when left alone, kids often are compassionate. One of my son’s preschool teachers told me about how he befriended a new boy in class who was upset and wanted to go home. They stayed friends the entire year. As for sports, I think the adults milk the joy and sportsmanship right out of the game.

    • Great how your son befriended that child. I remember being told that when my oldest grandchild was still at kindergarten and shortly after his grandfather had died, he comforted a little boy who had also lost his grandfather. My grandson (now 16) is still a caring person, although with all the male teenager attributes. 🙂

  6. Losing like that is the best form of winning. For all.

  7. Kudos from this former Special Ed teacher. No two people are alike, and no two people have the same abilities. But each of us, no matter where we fall on the spectrum, has the ability to be more than others expect us to be and more than even we believe ourselves to be.

  8. A perfect story to end my day. Thank you.

  9. What a great story. These are the instances that make parents proud much more than whether your kid hit a home run or won the game.

  10. jacquelincangro

    What a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes. A lovely reminder that there are things in this world much more important than winning and losing. I hope you have a Shay Day today!

    • I am working on every day being a Shay Day. Thanks for the comment Jacquelin. Please tell Reggie that his friend Lotte is in disgrace – she ran away for an hour today!

  11. Thank you for telling us about Shay. I keep thinking about the one kind act of one little boy that caused a chain reaction of kind acts by many. We need an International Shay Day. Beautiful, inspiring story!

  12. Sobbing here Judith..thank you for touching my heart!

    • I just love the story of Shay and his day. It really warms me to think that a young boy would have such compassion for another less fortunate boy. Thanks.

  13. What an uplifting story, Judith…Thank you for this.
    On a lighter note, glad your dog returned safely!
    x

  14. I’ve heard this gem of a story before and it always brings tears to my eyes…you just never know what lasting effect one moment of being kind can have on another. 🙂

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