“Ah?! What was wrong?!! That one was good!”
Coach Smith* groans with feigned anger, looks at me through the chain link fence, and laughs. He’s a college mathematics professor and father of three boys, the youngest of whom played baseball with mine in the spring. Now, on fall Wednesday nights, he’s taken it upon himself to help the boys on his old team brush up on fundamental skills.
Most of the time he’s got a few assistant coaches to help him (i.e. other dads), but tonight he’s all alone. His attitude never flags, though his arm and shoulder are clearly tired. Each kid is getting about 20 balls both times he’s up for batting practice, and for a 40-something guy, a couple hundred curve balls and speed balls don’t fly as easily as they used to.
I eye my son at home plate, look back at Coach on the pitcher’s mound, and raise my arms in mock despair. I have no idea why my 8-year old son didn’t swing at the first 10 or so balls that were pitched to him, or this one either.
Coach just smiles and reaches into his bucket again.
“Ok. Get closer to the plate. Let’s try again.”
He grabs another ball and throws it toward home.
Finally, there is contact. A long drive toward first.
Before we leave, I tell my son, “Coach Smith was really nice to throw you so many balls. It’s been a long day for him. Be sure you say thank you,” and my son nods vigorously as I watch him trot off to show a tiny bit of gratitude.
We know kindness when we see it, but sometimes we need to be prodded into acknowledging it.
I would argue that right now is a critical time to point out when someone in our midst is going out of their way to be kind and generous with their spirit, time, and/or resources.
On a day when a father/teacher was helping kids learn American baseball, the FBI was investigating a Supreme Court nominee for alleged sexual assault.
No matter your feelings on this particular matter, one thing’s for sure: this type of news stirs the stomach.
We hear so much unsettling and distressing news every day. Headlines concerning both natural and man-made crises never end. And you don’t have a to be a social psychologist to understand that spending too much time reading and reflecting on the news can negatively affect your emotional and mental health.
Social media compounds the problem. I treated myself to a 1-week Facebook fast awhile back and found it enhanced my life in ways that I would do well to remember more frequently. It was especially helpful for me as I processed the competing claims of candidates vying for elected positions.
So – if our media-saturated environment is bringing us down, one way to lift ourselves up is to consider the good we see around us in local, less-publicized venues, and – most importantly – to talk about it, especially with kids, who need real-life, accessible role models and reminders more than ever.
By choosing to highlight the kindness we see in others – be it in our homes, schools, workplaces, supermarkets, libraries, or while waiting for a train – we can refocus our lives for ourselves and our families on what really matters – the way we are to treat one another, day in and day out.
*Not his real name.