To My Fellow Human-Beings;
I was not supposed to coach a 9/10 year-old boy baseball team this year. At the start of the season, I had committed to coaching my younger son in T-ball. It was my preference.
However, due to a coaching shortage, I was "volunteered" to take over the coaching duties for my older son's team. One of the boys on my team (let's call him "Billy") had a mild, yet noticeable mental/emotional condition.
All the boys on the team worked hard during the year. I was able to have several optional batting practice sessions at a nearby park. And, even though some of our impromptu practices were not well attended, Billy came to every one.
Throughout the season, Billy needed to have his medications changed a few times. Since the medication changes had noticeable effects on his temperament and level concentration, it was very hard for him to have success hitting the baseball, but he never gave up.
On Sunday (2 days ago), we completed our season with the traditional year end tournament. Our team was given a last place seed. Never the less, thanks to some good fortune and hard work (not to mention a triple play!) we were able to beat the #1 seeded team in the first round. We eventually advanced to the 3rd Place game.
As the home team in the 3rd Place game, we began our half of the last inning losing 6-4. As it worked-out, Billy was to be our lead-off hitter. With a set jaw, and an irrepressible level of determination, Billy straddled home plate and gave his customary two taps to the center of the rubber base. In spite of his awkward stance and unusual hand grip, and somewhere in the midst of a series of body movements that would otherwise seem to defy the laws of physics, Billy started our inning with a hit. His weeks of hard work had paid-off!
Having seen Billy get the lead-off hit, I sat back on the bench, satisfied that his accomplishment would allow me to consider the game a success, and declare a moral victory under my breath. I did not even consider the possibility of the events that followed.
Billy's hit was followed by a second hit that moved him over to third. The next boy also got a hit, and Billy triumphantly stomped on home plate to make the score 5-4. An ensuing fielding error, and another hit resulted in our team scoring the game winning run. And, despite the fact that our boys had just won the 3rd Place game in a community "In-House" tournament, in the hours following our game, I am quite certain each of them was convinced that winning the World Series would be a trivial accomplishment by comparison.
Now, I don't expect an anonymous reader of this letter to care much about any of this. However, yesterday I received an e-mail from Billy's mom. She said Billy was so excited when he went to bed on Sunday night, he insisted on sleeping with his 3rd Place trophy....
I had to fight back a tear. I still do, just writing this.
In my younger days I was a reasonably accomplished athlete. I was no Tiger Woods, but I was luckier than most. I have made the game winning shot. I have scored the game winning touchdown. I have won conference titles in individual field events. However, none of these accomplishments ever provided me with the same level of joy & satisfaction that reading the e-mail from Billy's mom provided.
I write this letter hoping it will influence the reader to consider donating some of his/her valuable to time to any local community or charitable group. Your days may become busier, and your new relationships may be difficult to work through. However, if you are lucky enough to see your work make a positive impact on another person's life, you will receive a level of joy & satisfaction no individual achievement can provide. You will feel alive. You will feel like a human-being.