Soccer Balls and Violins

Soccer Balls and Violins

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Soccer Balls and Violins

We are members of a vast cosmic orchestra in which each living instrument is essential to the complementary and harmonious playing of the whole.

J. Allen Boone

It was early fall. I was enjoying my role as volunteer assistant soccer coach for a group of energetic ten-year-olds. My duties consisted primarily of maintaining some degree of control over this highly rambunctious lot, as my true knowledge of the game was limited.

One early morning at work, I was musing about the previous night’s soccer practice. I was handed the chart of ten-year-old Bradley, who was to be my first ultrasound exam of the day. Bradley was a young man I remembered well, even though I had not seen him in a number of years. At the age of four, Bradley had been involved in an automobile accident that had left him paralyzed from the waist down.

In any children’s hospital, tragic situations are unfortunately quite common, and certainly paraplegia is not unusual. However, on that particular morning, my mind was full of the images of ten-year-olds running, jumping and kicking, so I felt a bit depressed as I entered the room to see Bradley, knowing that he would never realize the joy of playing soccer.

I began Bradley’s ultrasound exam and we started chatting about the in consequentialities of life. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as he began telling me about his music: his violin, his piano and his flute. Bradley expressed how wonderful it was to be able to “make music.” In fact, Bradley had been selected to participate in a regional competition with the Omaha Symphony. What joy and enthusiasm he radiated! Then, almost as if he felt embarrassed by his exuberance, he turned to me and asked, “Dr. Brown, do you play an instrument?”

“Why, no, I don’t,” I replied, feeling a bit embarrassed myself. I felt the need to go ahead and explain to Bradley that I had indeed tried to learn music, and there were numerous piano teachers and a few clarinet teachers out there who had indeed tried to teach me. But they all wound up telling my parents the same thing: “I’m sorry. Jim tries real hard. He just has no talent whatsoever.”

“Oh,” Bradley said. “I’m real sorry, too, Dr. Brown.” He quite genuinely felt bad for me, and the crazy thing was, I also felt bad for me. So there we were in that instant, both feeling a bit of grief for my musical deficiencies. Then, for another instant, I experienced this inane urge to point out to Bradley that he was the one handicapped here. Or was he?

“Thank you, Bradley,” I said, “but it’s okay. God has given me gifts in other areas.”

“I know, Dr. Brown. You’re right, and I sure am glad you are a good doctor. But every day I feel so lucky and I am so thankful because there really is nothing like being able to make music!”

Bradley and I said our good-byes. His ultrasound exam had been normal and he was joyfully on his way to a musical function. I felt good and at peace. I had once again been reminded of the fallacy of two very common human tendencies. One is the tendency to make worldly things too great in importance (like running and jumping), and the other is the tendency to keep God too small.

James C. Brown, M.D.

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