I went to a beautiful funeral service on Friday for the long-time mayor of our town. She was a lovely lady who lived a good life. There is so much about her that I admired-- the way she humbly used her leadership skills to help our town, how she poured herself into the unique interests of each of her five grandchildren, and of course there was the beautiful relationship with her daughter that I witnessed when I saw them around town, always together. It's how I imagined my mom and I would be.
One story from the funeral really stuck with me, and it makes me tear up to think of it.
One of her grown sons shared that when he was around 9, he was excited to finally get to play baseball on the "big" baseball field in town. He was accustomed to his games being at local elementary schools, on very basic, grassy fields, but the "big" field had real dugouts, an announcer booth, and even a raised pitching mound. He could barely control his excitement.
But though the little boy tried his best, his first game in the "big league" was a total disaster. In particular, his pitching was terrible, and he was inconsolable on the way home. Like many of us, he looked for something to blame, and the pitching mound took the brunt of his wrath. He claimed it had thrown off his pitching.
As I listened to this story, I thought about what I would have done as a parent. Would I have told Jack and Margaret to quit trying to place blame? Would I have told them to just get a grip? To work on sportsmanship and being a more gracious loser? Would I have used it as a teachable moment to have them consider that maybe, if they were this upset, this sport wasn't for them? I'm guessing those would have been the directions I would have taken, and they wouldn't necessarily have been wrong.
But that's not what happened.
And what that little boy's parents did had more of an impact on him (and me!) than any lecture on sportsmanship ever could.
In the silent church we all waited to hear how the story ended.
The son looked up from the pulpit, and instead of a fifty year old, I saw a nine year old again as he finished his story. "A while later I heard something in the back yard. It was my mom and dad, both with shovels, digging up the grass, making me my own pitching mound."
I love this story.
In life we just want to be supported and understood. These parents used a simple, wordless action to say, "We love you. We hear you. We stand behind you. We believe in you. You can count on us."
Isn't it amazing how a seemingly small, unexpected action over 40 years ago, can still teach us so much? And I'm guessing that the end of the story wasn't an ending at all for that 9 year old boy, who now has three kids of his own.