Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today I have been thinking about physically and mentally disabled children. I’m sure every mother worries about this, but from time to time, I have tried to imagine how I would react if I were to have a disabled child. My first thought was that it would be hard, but it would be fine. I then pictured myself taking the child to the library, to playgroup, to birthday parties. I’m sure most of the adults would be warm and understanding, but what about the other children?

I imagined having a healthy child and envisioned a friend or acquaintance bringing their disabled child to the library, playgroup, and birthday parties. Would I treat her and her child like everyone else? Would I be nicer? Would I avoid them?

If I had the disabled child would people go out of their way to be nice to us or would they try to avoid us, or would it be a mixture of both? Minutes after thinking about this, I received a chain email on this subject. I felt it was too large of a coincidence, and I just had to share.

I’m warning you, this story made me tear up.

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.

Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do.. He cannot un derstand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?'

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'

Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart.. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three..

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat..

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the

plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.

As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.

Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of=2 0reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!

Run to first!'

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!

Shay, run to third!'

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team

'That day', said the father softly with tears n ow rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love a nd humanity into this world'.

Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

If I do end up having a disabled child sometime in my life, I hope to encounter people like the children in this story. And in the meantime, I hope to strive to be more like the children in this story.


tracyp said...

I had forgotten about that story. I believe every mother has asked themselves the same question regarding how they would feel about a child with challenges, but like in the story, it gives us a great opportunity to show how great humanity can be.

Kristin and Chase said...

I have always worried about what I would do if I had a child with disabilities too. I know the chances are supposed to be slimmer for younger moms but it doesn't mean it can't happen. I definitely know that I will be teaching my kids to be kind to everyone, especially to those w/ disabilities. Thanks for sharing that sweet story!

Capri said...


Darlene Womack said...

As the mother of a child with many disabilities (parkinsonism has now been added with the Down's and autism), I can tell you, first hand, I rejoice in every kind act, every smile, every hug that is offered to my son. I also am grateful for understanding that comes quickly when he does or says something that could be deemed inappropriate or down right embarrassing :) We have certainly had our times when the isolation and loneliness was almost unbearable, but then forgotten through small acts of kindness from others who are willing to take the time to understand and just be nice. Don't worry too much, dear Ashley. You will do whatever you are called upon to do -- and you will do it well. Love you!

Anonymous said...

I read your story and of course since it i about baseball I must comment. There may be some doubt sa to the truth of this story but, I once witnessed with my own eyes as chandlers friends (7 years older) did this exact thing one day at the ballpark. Even though Hudson doesn't have any disabilities the fact that he is much younger would have made it impossible for him to get a hit much less a homerun. There were no adults involved and I saw it from a distance. It warmed my heart and I will never forget it.

Debbie said...

I've worried about this many times before also. I remember that I once spent the day at RISE in Tuscaloosa working with kids with Down syndrome, and at that moment, I thought to myself that if I ever had a child with disabilities, I think I could handle it. Thinking back about that, I'm not sure what made me think that because I know that it would be extremely difficult. I guess I just know that Heavenly Father will never give us something we can't handle.

This was a very sweet story.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Ashley. I don't think I've heard that story before. It made me cry. As they always tell the special educators at every workshop we attend, they are CHILDREN who happen to have a disability, not disabled children.
Don't worry. You'll be a great Mother. You've have lots of great examples to follow.