Friday, October 18, 2013

T-Ball and how it changed my life

I have told many a story about Preston, our son with Down Syndrome, but there is a story I would love to share because it will show you how you can make a big difference in more than one person's life.

When Preston was about 7 years old and really behind kids his age in physical and mental ability there was a lot going on in our lives raising two other children and trying to make a living.  We had noticed that Preston did not get some of the luxuries other children got like playing T-ball and thinking about playing football and wrestling with his buddies and getting into fights with his big sister and big brother.  He did not get some of the independence other children get automatically in life.  He especially missed out on having "buddies", friends who asked him to play.  Now of course Wynter and Chase his sister and brother played with him but he did not have that pier group of friends at school and church.  He was not invited over to kids houses to play nor was he invited to their birthday parties and especially he was not wanted on the regular kids sports teams.  But there was one exception which will resonate in my entire being for the rest of my life.

One evening I got a call from a friend from church named Dennis Hale (wife Shelly).  They had a son who was about 5 years old and Dennis was one of those dads who had a passion for life and a passion for sports.  Dennis loved to hunt and fish and do about anything for his wife and son.  He had and has an enthusiasm for life that is tremendous.  I remember when it was time for trick or treat, he was one of those who really got out there and decorated and got ready to have a great time.  But this one time he did something that just brought me literally to tears.  He asked me if Preston could play on his baseball team!  I was speechless and of course we said yes.  But that is not the end of the story.

Dennis worked with Preston over and over again.  Preston would hit the ball and take off running and you could not be sure which direction he would go but he knew to go somewhere.  Everyone would be yelling and Preston would smile and run but he might run to 3rd then home or to 2nd then first.  It was wild.  And when Preston was playing in the field (always the outfield) Dennis would stand proudly with Preston even though there was tremendous lack of understanding on both of their parts on what the other was thinking.  Somehow Dennis's expectations were not to score runs or catch the ball but his was about including a kid who was never asked to be friends with normal kids.  Dennis talked to the other kids about encouraging and helping Preston.  The game was about the person and not the rules.  It was not about winning the game but winning the game of life.

Again the story does not end there.  When we played other teams I saw kids intentionally not tag Preston out or intentionally drop the ball and I saw opposing coaches go to the umpire and tell them Preston was not struck out or tagged on a base.  Did you hear me?  The coaches of the OTHER team.  On top of that I saw fans who typically would be screaming at their children or their own coaches cheer for Preston.  I saw stands full of folks standing and cheering as Preston would cross home plate.  Preston is now 26 and it still makes my eyes water as I recall the stories of heroism of the fans, coaches, umpires, and players from the OTHER teams cheer for the success of a 7 year old boy with down syndrome.

I wish I could say it has always been that encouraging and no one ever hurt our feelings on how they treated our son but I can say that Dennis Hale got his Angels Wings a little early and that God blessed him in a special way that no other person can replace.  I doubt that Dennis will ever see this as we have lost touch with them but there will always be a special place in my heart for a guy that filled my son with joy.  I could say it another way and that is Preston might not realize what a special deal this was but Dennis blessed my family like no other.

So what do you learn in the Osage?

  • An act of total unselfish love is absolutely unmeasurable
  • An act of kindness resonates far beyond the one simple act
  • Do something for somebody without any selfish motive and you might earn your Angels Wings a little before it is time
Thanks for listening,
gary@thepioneerman.com

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