Making Room for Shooting Stars

Making Room for Shooting Stars

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Making Room for Shooting Stars

This was the big game. The bleachers were packed with parents and kids. Lights blazed down on the baseball field, giving it a real “big league” feel. The boys in the dugouts were nervous and excited. It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and our team was actually leading by one run. Andy, our son, was in right field, and behind him, at the edge of the lights, it was dark, with the black shape of the distant mountains rising up to the stars. It was a clear and chilly night, and Andy’s Little League team, which had struggled all year and didn’t even reach .500 in the final standings, had shocked two of the better teams by making it to this championship game. The mood was electric.

Only one out to go to end the inning. The other team’s left-handed slugger, a big kid who always hit long balls and had that home-run swagger when he walked, was up. He was poised at the plate like a rattlesnake, dangerous and ready to strike.

Nervously, I looked out Andy’s way. He had never really done well in the outfield. I was shocked to see Andy looking straight up at the night sky! It was obvious he wasn’t paying attention to the game. I was horrified this slugger was going to launch the ball Andy’s way and he wouldn’t even know it was coming. They’d score a bunch of runs and break the game wide open.

“What’s he doing out there?” I hissed to my wife, Mary.

“What do you mean?” she replied.

“Well, look at him—he’s not paying attention; he’s goofing off! This guy’s gonna hit it right to him!” I muttered.

“Relax,” said my wife. “He’ll be fine. It’s just a game.”

“Come on, Andy. Wake up out there,” I said more to myself than Mary.

I could barely watch. My body was tense. The pitch was on the way, a slow, enticing floater right in the middle of the strike zone. I squinted out at Andy, who was still gazing heavenward. Maybe he’s praying, I thought. I heard the crack of the bat. “Oh, no,” I said.

I was mostly worried that Andy would be really embarrassed, because he did take his performance seriously, and cared what his teammates thought of him. But I also realized I was worried that I’d be embarrassed, too. I prided myself on being a supportive and not-too-pushy dad. We’d go out and play one-on-one games and practice catching those high flies. I always tried to make it fun, yet pushed hard enough that Andy would improve. And I’d always say, “Just give it your best shot.” So if Andy made a good try going after the ball and missed it—you know, stretched out with the glove and eating sod, or backwards over the fence—that was okay. But to miss it because he was off in a different dimension somewhere—that was embarrassing. Downright goofy. Not playing tough. Letting the guys down. I felt all that macho sports stuff churning around inside me like indigestion.

“Yes!” I shouted, as the play ended. Sluggo had grounded out to first. We (Andy and I) had been spared, and we still led by one run. It was imperative that I get Andy straightened out for the last inning.

We were sitting behind the fence near home plate, and as the kids came in from the outfield, Andy ran up to us, breathless. I was about to start my “What-do-you-think-you’re-doing-out-there speech” when Andy exclaimed, “Did you see that shooting star? It was beautiful! It was so great. It had a long tail, and I thought it might crash into the mountain. But then it just disappeared, like someone turned the lights off inside. I wonder where it came from. It was so awesome. I wish you’d seen it!”

Andy’s eyes were glowing with excitement (after all, we had spent as much time looking for meteors as we had practicing baseball). I paused. “Me, too,” I said. “Well, one inning to go. You guys hold ’em now. Hit a home run!”

“Okay!” said Andy, and he ran back to his teammates in the dugout.

Mary smiled at me. We were thinking the same thing— that it was nice our son would take time out to appreciate the wonder and beauty in life, and that it was important to him. There was plenty of time for Andy to experience the suffocating crush of team sports, the peer pressure, the “at all costs” mentality. He was still a kid, thank goodness. And I was a little chagrined that I had been temporarily caught up in the same vortex.

As we grow up, it seems we have less and less time to seek beauty and wonder. As adults, it’s way down the list somewhere. For many of us, just keeping up with everything we have going consumes most of our time and energy, and sadly there’s not much room for shooting stars. So every once in a while I take time out to look around, even if I’m in the middle of something I think is too important to interrupt. You might be surprised by the beauty you can find when you least expect it—on the street, in the sky, even in the corporate boardroom—and how it can make your day better. Andy hit a triple in that last inning. But I still wish I had seen that shooting star, too.

Mark Crawford

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