A pastor recently related the story of a special-needs boy who attended a neighborhood baseball game. Ned was obviously physically challenged. He impulsively asked if he could play. The two teams were in a tie at the top of the ninth inning when the coach put Ned in right field. The other team failed to score, and Ned’s team came to bat. The first two batters struck out. The last chance to win was at the bat of little Ned. He stood at the plate ready to smash the ball. The first pitch whizzed across the plate so fast Ned swished air after the ball was in the catcher’s mitt. The pitcher recognized that Ned was doing the best he could as a physically-challenged player. The pitcher smiled and tossed a slow pitch. Another swing and miss. Ned’s dad hollered, “You can do it, Ned!” The pitcher smiled and took three strides closer to the plate, and tossed a lazy, arching pitch right across the plate. This time Ned connected and drove the ball right to the pitcher’s feet. He scooped it up and turned as if to rifle the ball to first base. Instead, he threw it over the head of the first baseman. The outfielder rushed to gather up the error. Ned’s dad yelled, “Go to second Ned!” The outfielder caught the spirit of the pitcher and threw the ball over second base and it rolled into the outfield. Ned’s dad yelled, “Go to third Ned!” The crowd started yelling, “Run to home, Ned!” Ned did; he rounded third and scurried toward home plate. The crowd cheered, applauded, and chanted, “Run Ned!” He crossed home plate with a big smile. Ned’s father hugged his son, then walked to the pitcher and said, “Thanks! You are the real winner here. Why did you do that?” The pitcher glanced at Ned and said, “My dad never comes to my games. I saw how much you believe in your son. It seemed the right thing to do for you and Ned.”
An educator noticed a teenage girl sitting alone on a bench. Other students were collected in groups. Instantly, the educator sat beside the girl and struck up a conversation. She was reluctant to talk, but turned her eyes to the educator when he asked, “What is your big dream in life.” She shrugged and said, “I don’t know.” He then asked, “If you could not fail, what career would you like to try?” She smiled and shrugged as she replied, “I think I would like to be a writer.” The educator said, “Then, I imagine you will.” She looked at him and asked, “Do you really think I could?” He smiled and replied, “Sure I do; you are obviously a bright girl who can do just about anything she sets her mind to do.” Years passed. One day, the educator received a newspaper page folded in an envelope. The article was by that girl student. Attached was a simple note, “You said I could; so I did. Thanks!”
A belligerent teenage girl violated school policy and was brought to the principal for discipline. According to the student handbook, the girl could have been suspended. However, another school administrator suspected that the girl was facing tough issues at home. His inquiry revealed that the dad was recently released from prison, and the mother was still incarcerated for dealing drugs. The administrator had observed that the girl’s carriage, countenance, and conversational skills reflected great potential. Rather than sit by and watch her be suspended and likely draw into a deep emotional hole, the administrator arranged for his wife to take the girl to lunch. During the meal, the girl poured out her fractured life story of sexual abuse, parental abandonment, and taunting by bullies. The administrator visited the work-place of the girl’s father to establish a relationship and to gain insight. Other meetings followed during the week. Unsurprisingly, the girl’s study habits improved. She began to smile. Students noticed the change, and welcomed her as a peer. One day, she stopped by the office of the administrator to ask a question: “Why does someone like you help someone like me.” He answered, “Because there was a time when I was in a similar situation, and someone believed enough in me to give me another chance. You deserve an opportunity to pursue your destiny.”
The lessons are obvious. Take care of other people in their time of need and someday, someone will be available to take care of you in your time of need. Look for people who seem to be inconsequential, marginal, or non-descript. Then help them through encouragement, assistance, or simply companionship. They may be the very people who change the world through their talent, skill, or insight which you took time to develop. Be a destiny-shaper by taking time to love the unlovely, discontent, or hopeless.
Lee Armstrong once said, “If you love and help people who no one else wants, then God will bring into your life the people everybody wants.” Make a difference in someone today. Write a note of encouragement to a soldier, fireman, or public official. Greet a teenager with a warm smile. Open the door for a stranger. Send a financial gift to a widow. Tutor a student who is struggling with an assignment. Pitch a slow baseball to a special needs child! Not because you hope to gain anything from the act, but simply because it is the right thing to do.
Read other articles by Dr. Ronald E. Johnson in Doc’s blog. Comments are welcome at email@example.com or P.O. Box 3159, Early, Texas 76803.