84: A Heart of Compassion

84: A Heart of Compassion

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

A Heart of Compassion

Be kind and show compassion. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

~T.H. Thompson

“Mom, he’s picking on me again!”

I cringed at the shrill sound of seven-year-old Austin’s voice rising above the rap music on the radio. Between the radio, the rumble of the truck’s diesel engine, the whirl of the air conditioning and the snickering coming from the back seat, my nerves were stretched taut.

“Devin! Didn’t I tell you to stop it?” I glanced into the rearview mirror, making eye contact with my middle son, freezing him in some act of mischief.

“He started it!” came the disgruntled reply.

“How many times do I have to tell you? If you don’t want him to do to you what you’re doing to him, then don’t do it in the first place!”

Under the brim of the red baseball cap, a strange, confused look crossed Devin’s face. I cringed at what I had just said. No wonder he was confused. I backtracked and rephrased it before his attention wandered onto ideas of more turmoil he could put his younger brother through.

“If you don’t want him to tease you, then don’t tease him. I mean it! Leave him alone!”

When I looked back into the mirror, clear understanding showed on his nine-year-old face.

“Let’s see if we can make it to the baseball field without any more fighting, okay?” My two younger sons pretended to listen while my sixteen-year-old ignored us all.

Austin’s game was scheduled to start in fifteen minutes, and I was, as usual, running late. Dealing with work, kids in school and now baseball games caused my husband and me to rearrange and adjust our schedules to fit the kids’.

I sign up my three sons to play baseball every year to give them a chance to learn an athletic skill and, hopefully, good sportsmanship. I wonder at times if the morals I am trying to instill in them are filtering through. There are usually no outward signs that they have absorbed these things. This worry weighs on me at times, like that day.

Steering the extended-cab pickup into an empty spot near the field, I cut the engine, then issued instructions to the boys. My sixteen-year-old, John, nodded, his CD headphone wires swaying, and jumped out. He sauntered off in the direction of the Majors field without a word, while Austin and Devin tripped and shoved each other on the way out the truck door.

“Mom, can I get something to drink?” Devin was the first to ask.

“I want something, too!”

“All right. Austin, go on and meet your coach. Devin and I will bring you something.”

I heard Austin’s coach call out to him. “Hey, buddy, you gonna hit us some home runs tonight?”

“Yep!” came Austin’s excited answer. With two older brothers honing his skills, Austin was one of the best players on the team. They expected him to hit home runs, and he did, two to three a game.

Smiling, I crossed over to the concession stand and waited at the end of the line. A friend of Devin’s ran to him, and they were off to play ball. “Stay where I can see you.” The words were barely out of my mouth when he ran to a grassy triangle section between two of the fenced-in fields.

Alone, I walked the rest of the way to the dugout and gave Austin his bottle of water and sunflower seeds. Standing there watching the kids, I listened to seven-year-old girls tease the other players on their team, as long as the coach didn’t hear them. My son, of course, was exempted from this teasing because he played a little better than the other kids.

“Hey, guys, maybe you should try helping each other instead of cutting each other down.” I spoke to no one of the kids in particular, hoping that at least one would pay attention. They all froze and looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes. Guilt, I have found with my sons, is a taught emotion. I was satisfied they would stop for the time being, and I took a seat at the top of the bleachers.

The game started and excitement built. Family members cheered and hollered advice to the little ones as they played. Midway through, I felt a tap on my arm. Kevin, my husband, had arrived.

“How’s the game?”

“Good, it’s running about even,” I told him, my eyes riveted on a little boy named Justin coming up to bat. I felt empathy for the dark-haired child. He tried so hard, but didn’t seem to catch on. Standing as rigid as a soldier, he reared back and swung, completely missing the ball. The third swing produced a short, low ball, easily caught by the pitcher and thrown to first base. Justin made his first out for the night.

“Aw, poor baby!” I spoke softly to Kevin as I watched the boy half-walk, half-run off the field. “Justin tries so hard. I think he’s the only one who hasn’t made a base hit all season. The kids were giving him a hard time earlier. He has the heart, but he hasn’t developed the skills yet.”

“He’ll get there,” Kevin muttered. His voice grew louder when Austin stepped up to the batter’s box. “Hey, Austin, keep your eye on the ball. You can do it, buddy.”

Sure enough, our son made his first home run for the night. His fellow players cheered him and clapped him on the back when he jogged into the dugout. This scenario continued throughout the game—Justin got put out, and Austin had home runs. Kudos were handed to Austin, and Justin got nothing from his fellow players except groans when he came up to bat.

In the last inning, Justin’s hit was repeated. As he stumbled, defeated, into the dugout, head down, shoulders slumped, I noticed Austin standing by the gate watching him. When Justin stepped inside the dugout, Austin wrapped his arm around his shoulders and patted him as he walked him back to the bench. His head lowered to the boy’s ear. They sat side-by-side, Austin talking and Justin nodding every now and then.

My heart swelled. I silently thanked God for showing me our son had a heart of compassion. I don’t know what Austin said to Justin, I didn’t ask him, but the fact was, he saw a person in need and reached out to him.

On the way home, in the dark, the interior of the truck was quiet and still for about five minutes. During this peaceful time, I basked in the knowledge of my son’s kindness, feeling we had succeeded as parents. Soon, whispers and commotion started from the back seat. Before I could ask what was going on back there, Devin’s voice piped up.

“Mom, Austin said I was adopted!”

~Judy L. Leger
Chicken Soup for the Mother and Son Soul

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