Just Ben

Just Ben

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

Just Ben

Children: much more than just little people. Young kids are definitely special people. There are no other people like them in the world.

Adrian Wagner

It was late August and quite chilly outside. I was coaching a soccer team for kindergarteners and first-graders, and it was the day of our first practice.

It was cold enough for the kids to be bundled up in extra sweatshirts, jackets, gloves and mittens.

I sat the kids down on the dugout bench—soccer in Austin is played on the outfield grass at the softball complex. As was normally the case any time I was coaching a new team, we took the first few minutes to get to know one another. We went up and down the row a few times, each kid saying his or her name and the names of all the kids sitting to the left.

After a few minutes of this, I decided to put the kids to the ultimate test. I asked for a volunteer who thought he or she knew the names of all eleven kids on the team and could prove it to all of us right then. There was one brave six-year-old who felt up to the challenge. He was to start at the far left end of the bench, go up to each kid, say that kid’s name and then shake his or her right hand.

Alex started off and was doing very well. While I stood behind him, he went down the row—Dylan, Micah, Sara, Beau and Danny—until he reached Ben, by far the smallest kid on the team. He stammered out Ben’s name without much trouble and extended his right hand, but Ben would not extend his. I looked at Ben for a second, as did Alex and the rest of the kids on the bench, but he just sat there, his right hand hidden under the cuff of his jacket.

“Ben, why don’t you let Alex shake your hand?” I asked. But Ben just sat there, looking first at Alex and then at me, and then at Alex once again.

“Ben, what’s the matter?” I asked.

Finally Ben stood up, looked up at me and said, “But coach, I don’t have a hand.” He unzipped his jacket, pulling it away from his right shoulder.

Sure enough, Ben’s arm ran from his right shoulder just like every other kid on the team, but unlike the rest of his teammates, his arm stopped at the elbow. No fingers, no hand, no forearm.

I’ll have to admit, I was taken aback a bit and couldn’t think of anything to say or how to react, but thank God for little kids—and their unwillingness to be tactful.

“Look at that,” said Alex.

“Hey, what happened to your arm?” another asked.

“Does it hurt?”

Before I knew it, a crowd of ten players and a bewildered coach encircled a small child who was now taking off his jacket to show all those around him what they all wanted to see.

In the next few minutes, a calm and collected six-year-old explained to all of those present that he had always been that way and that there was nothing special about him because of it. What he meant was that he wanted to be treated like everybody else.

And he was from that day on.

From that day on, he was never the kid with one arm. He was just Ben, one of the players on the team.

Adrian Wagner
Submitted by Judy Noble

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