An Unlikely Hero

by Judith Rich on March 25, 2010

A friend sent me this story today. I’ve heard it before and per­haps so have you. Wayne Dyer uses this story in his pre­sen­ta­tions and intro­duces as a “true story”. Whether it’s true or not, the spirit of this story speaks to a deeper truth about human beings. And so in the con­text of my ear­lier post on life con­spir­ing for our high­est good, it seems appro­pri­ate to share it here now.

I want to ded­i­cate this story to a reader from my arti­cle in the Huff­in­g­ton Post.  Canyon­dreams, this one’s for you!

At a fundrais­ing din­ner for a school that serves chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, 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, who was men­tally and phys­i­cally dis­abled 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 I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were play­ing base­ball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that most of the boys would not want some­one like Shay on their team, but as a fatherI also under­stood that if my 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.

I 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. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my 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 I 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! 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!’ 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, 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, Shay, run to third!’

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spec­ta­tors, were on their feet scream­ing, ‘Shay, 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 me so happy, and com­ing home and see­ing his Mother tear­fully embrace her lit­tle hero of the day!”

We are all heroes, being called to step up to our higher nature and serve good in the world and be served by it.  It’s up to us, you and me, to make the choice to answer this call or turn a deaf ear.

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