By Anthony Kane, MD
I want to give a brief introduction to the following story.
This story comes from the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. It is interesting that although I first heard this story almost a decade ago and haven't thought about it for several years, this story was sent to me last week by two different people, one from New Jersey and one from Florida. I have decided to share this story with you.
This story was first told at a funding raising dinner for Chush, a special needs school in New York, catering to the Orthodox Jewish community. One of the speakers at that dinner was the father of Shaya, a learning disabled boy about whom this story revolves.
The father started his speech like so many others, praising the school and the dedication of the staff. But then he went off on a tangent in a way that touched the lives of everyone in that room.
"We know that God is perfect. We all believe this. But I ask you, look at my son. He can't learn like other children. He can't remember facts like other children. He will never understand things that they can understand. Look at my son and tell me, where is God's perfection?"
The shocked audience sat silent, facing the pain of a father in anguish.
"I believe," the father continued softly, "that when God brings a child like my son into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in not what the child might do, but the way people react to this child."
The father then told this story about his son, Shaya.
One Sunday afternoon, he and his son were walking by a park where the Orthodox Jewish boys in the neighborhood were playing baseball.
"Do you think they would let me play?" Shaya asked.
Shaya's father knew that his son didn't know how to play baseball. His son couldn't play baseball. But he also knows that these boys have always been kind to Shaya. If he as Shaya's father didn't speak up for his son, who would?
So he walked over to one of the boys and asked, "What do you think about letting Shaya in the game?"
The boy didn't know what to say. He looked around to his teammates for guidance. He didn't get any.
Finally the boy answered, "Well, we're about to start the 8th inning, and we're losing by six runs. I don't think we're going to win this game, so what's the difference? We'll get him a glove and he can play on our team behind second base. We'll let him bat in the ninth inning."
Shaya's face beamed. His father helped him put on the baseball glove and Shaya joined his team, playing short center field.
But things began to change. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored three runs. They again rallied in the ninth inning. Now in the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team had bases loaded with two outs. It was Shaya's turn at bat.
They will never let him bat, thought the father. But without hesitation, one of the boys shouted, "Shaya, you're up!" and he handed Shaya the bat.
Shaya had never held a bat before. Shaya walked to the plate. The pitcher moved in a few steps and lobbed the ball so Shaya could make contact. Shaya swung the bat clumsily and missed the ball by a wide margin.
"Hold on," said one of the boys. "Let me help him. Let me show him how to bat."
This boy came and stood behind Shaya, and put his arms around him so together they were holding the bat.
The pitcher moved in a couple more feet and lobbed the ball as softly as he could.
The two boys swung the bat together and managed to make contact with the ball, tapping it gently toward the pitcher.
"Run, Shaya, run to first!" shouted Shaya's teammates.
Run to first? Shaya run to first!? Shaya had never run to first in his life. But Shaya began running to first.
Shaya was not even half way to first base when the ball reached the pitcher's feet. The game was all but over. The pitcher picked up the ball. He now had a choice. He could throw Shaya out at first and end the game that way or he could easily outrun Shaya and tag him out. However, the pitcher decided to end the game in a different way.
He took the ball and with all his might threw it as far as he could over the first baseman's head far into right field.
"Run, Shaya, run," the pitcher shouted.
The right fielder was still chasing after the ball when Shaya reached first.
"Shaya, run to second!" his teammates shouted.
Shaya began to run to second, some of his teammates running with him. The other three base runners had already scored. Now the game was tied.
Shaya was only a quarter of the way to second base when the right fielder had the ball. Instead of throwing the ball to second to tag Shaya out, the right fielder took the ball and threw it way over the third baseman's head and out of the park.
When Shaya reached second, the opposing shortstop ran up to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third!"
Shaya began to run to third and his entire team came onto the field and was running with him. Shaya reached third base.
Now all eighteen boys were running behind Shaya.
"Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!" everyone shouted.
Shaya stepped on home plate to the cheers of eighteen boys. They picked him up and carried him on their shoulders. He had hit a home run.
Shaya, the special needs boy who had never played baseball before, was the hero of the game.
None of us know why we were put on this Earth. Many teach that part of our job is to try to emulate our Creator's perfection. Many of us have difficultly with our children. Some of these children have ADHD. Some of them have other problems. However, our children and we have a purpose why we were created. Most of us will probably never really know what that purpose is.
Still, I wanted to share this true story with you that took place about ten years ago: The story of eighteen boys who for a few brief moments one Sunday afternoon, at a playground in Brooklyn, were able to give us a glimpse of God's perfection.
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