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Thankful for Human Kindness

26 Nov

— and Stephanie Robinson of Oxford

 

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Swinging the Bat

13 May

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I do not know how you measure success.

Is it wealth, fame, good health, love, all of them, none of them. I don’t know.

Maybe it’s just making an effort you thought you could never make.

My son is on his school’s baseball team. I am not betraying him when I tell you he is not the best athlete on the team. But he loves being on a team and part of a team. Recently, my mother told me she had a conversation with my son about his method of playing. In essence, his approach was to never swing with the hope of getting walked to first base. This was heartbreaking to me. I was also unaware of it because he instructed me not to attend any games because he was mainly in charge of keeping the bench very warm. Although I am not exactly athletic, I confronted him:

“You need to swing the bat. Even if you miss. You still have to try because you will miss 100% of the balls you don’t swing at.”

I am not sure if he was frightened of the speed of the ball, the shame of an earned strike, or just simply taking a chance. He promised he would try. And with that, he was able to allow someone else to keep that bench warm, at least some of the time.

Academically, my son is, for the most part, thriving. He has recently struggled, however, with a couple of subjects and was less than thrilled about grades he received. I’m not exactly sure, though, that he was swinging the bat at those plates either. We had multiple, similar conversations about the importance of making an effort, trying your best, aiming for a hit instead of a walk. I’m not sure how many of these talks sink in or how many translate to the Charlie Brown teacher language of “WOH WOH WOH WAH.” My expertise and life experience are not impressive to him. It seems not to matter that I have already lived all the days he is living. He probably just wants me to stop talking. Oh well, too bad. It’s my job.

This combination of some poor grades and baseball ineptitude was starting to wear on his confidence. I cannot blame him though, again, he wasn’t actively participating in his own life enough to change his situation. It is hard to watch your child struggle with self-doubt and think you can give them all the tools and praise needed to remedy it, but it is, ultimately, up to them to cure their problems themselves.

Yesterday, on one of spring’s most beautiful days, and with my son’s blessing, I finally attended a baseball game: my son’s team’s last home game of the season. My son was at bat. He swung a few times, accruing two strikes. His team and coach continued to call his name, encouraging him. On the final pitch, as the wind blew its warm, gentle breeze over the field, I sat in a lawn chair and watched my boy make his very first hit. It was solid. It went to third base, and he made it to first base safely with his team cheering him on. And later, during the last inning, and only minutes after my husband arrived, we both had the privilege of watching our son make his second hit, into the field, right over second base. Again, his team cheered. And so did we.

While I have been largely focusing on the importance of his school work, perhaps excelling here, on a baseball diamond with friends and teammates, is just as important. He needs to feel good about himself in all arenas, and those two hits, likely inconsequential to most kids on the team, were home runs for all of us.

Had my son not swung, he never would have hit those balls. He never would have known what the impact of the ball against the ash in his hands would feel like. He never would have known that he too could create that familiar “crack” symbolic of a hit. He never would have known the joy of hearing his friends and teammates root for him and the thrill of reaching first base because he proactively earned it as opposed to watching for the pitcher to err. He never would have known what it was like to cross home plate on that beautiful spring day, the completion of the story that began with his first hit. This type of knowledge he gained is every bit as useful and meaningful as the type learned from a textbook. If not more so.

Maybe success is just swinging the bat.

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Fast Forwarding Through Life

30 Apr

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This time last week I was miserable. Miserable. It was one of those weeks so murky and difficult to navigate, when things seemed they could implode at any turn, that I was longing for a fast-forward button for life. As always, I found myself repeating, “this time next week, things will be better.” The breaking point was Thursday.

I was terrified as to what the day would bring and at the same time, I just needed to hear everything. I dreaded and anticipated it, I cursed and welcomed it, and I thought of the Lisa 8 hours later who would know the answers to many of the questions plaguing her.

It turns out that Thursday was beautiful. A sign. Step One. I don’t know how I would be if I lived in a city without seasons because I draw so much hope and emotion from a sunny day, an autumn leaf, the first snow, the ocean breeze. I could probably get accustomed to the ocean breeze and sunny days, but would I appreciate them as much? Would they lift me still? Would they give much-needed meaning to doubts and fears and sadness? Would they be simply relished as euphoria-inducing gifts?

As the day progressed, news on all the fronts I had been anxiously sitting by, seemed to improve. And then, when you think you will never hear the words you want so badly to hear, I heard them. I heard them from a source I fell in love with, I heard them from the birds in the blossoming trees, I heard them from the rays of sunshine on my windshield.

As I drove home across the Triboro bridge, I stared at the New York City skyline I have been staring at my whole life. Maybe it’s being a New Yorker, maybe it’s being an optimist, maybe it’s just because it is, objectively beautiful, but every time it comes into view, it takes my breath away. Every single time. And thank G-d. I am so happy to be able to appreciate moments big and small, so grateful to feel sweeping surges of gratitude and love, so appreciative that I am still in awe of something some people might never realize they are in the presence of.

As we neared the end of the bridge, I looked at the people I love. I looked at the reassuring texts on my phone, I looked at the cloudless, blue sky, and I thought to myself “today, the sun is shining just for me.” Because it was.