I went to a little league baseball game today. In some ways, it was exactly what you are imagining. The sun shone, the players had on matching shirts and the dads were encouraging everyone to "keep your eye on the ball." Except this game was different. This game was a scrimmage for kids who can't play regular little league. Maybe they aren't coordinated enough, maybe they are too shy, maybe they just don't feel like it. These players range in age, size and ability. It doesn't really matter, though, because they all belong.
They cheer, encourage, high-five, heckle and laugh with one another. There is a fair amount of teasing- but not the kind that hurts anyone's feeling. Opportunities are given to try again and no one feels like a loser.
As a non-athletic person and the mom of one of the players, I delight in this model. While my kid is one of the better hitters in the group, I know that he could never play on a more traditional baseball team. He giggles too much in the outfield. In fact, all of the players have athletic or attentional deficits that would make a more traditional team really unpleasant for them.
The advantage that these players have, though, is their determination. It is palpable and, on some days, almost too beautiful to watch.
Today's game included all of the usual amusements - the kid for forgets to run to third and just comes straight home from second base, for example. But today was a little more inspiring. Today, a kid named Nick stayed at the plate for a really long time. Nick was determined to get a hit. It took a while.
The pitcher was patient and kept throwing balls that were hit-able. The dads all gave their advice "choke up, a little" or "swing now." But Nick still struggled.
After about 15 strikes, he mumbled, "this will take forever."
At first, I thought this meant he had lost hope and was giving up. Nope. It really was just a statement, I think, that we should all just shut up and get comfortable. He didn't need our advice and I'm not sure he even needed our encouragement at that moment. He needed a hit. And he was willing to be patient.
Determination like this is rare. Most of us set goals and feel bad about ourselves if we take longer than we think it should to attain them. Not Nick. He wanted a hit and he was willing to put in the effort to get one. Set-backs did not deter him. Advice and encouragement from others did not speed him up.
After about ten more pitches, Nick got his hit. It wasn't awesome, but it sure felt that way to all of us in the stands. I wondered how it felt to Nick. I wanted to ask him after the game, but I don't really know him. Plus, I was so moved by his graceful determination that I was crying by then.
The phrase "this will take forever" means something different to me now. In the past, it meant "I'm giving up. Why bother."
Today, Nick showed me it means "I will get there, even if it takes all day. Your time-tables don't matter. The number of times I fail don't matter, either. I'm staying here until I reach my goal. Even if that takes forever."