Grandpa’s Little Buddy

Grandpa’s Little Buddy

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

Grandpa’s Little Buddy

Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier.

Jean Wasserman McCarty

As Steven stood awkwardly on the bank of Lake Malone in Western Kentucky, his grandfather watched his “Little Buddy” desperately attempt to get just one of the many flat rocks he’d gathered to skip over the lake’s sun reflective surface. “Keep at it, Son!” his grandfather shouted with much enthusiasm. “Grandpa,” Steven asked in his preadolescent and breaking voice, “why am I no good at anything I try? I want to be a great pitcher like you used to be!”

His grandfather gently touched his shoulder while observing his grandson’s eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Little Buddy, let me tell you why you are already a great pitcher and will be a better pitcher than your old grandpa ever was. Can I give you a little advice, Son?”

Steven looked intensely into his hero’s eyes and replied, “Yes, Grandpa! I’ll do anything to be great like you!”

His grandfather sat him down on a hollowed-out log and pulled him in close. “Little Buddy, I want you to remember what I am about to tell you and all I ask is that you never forget what I had to learn the hard way. Do you promise you will remember?” Without pause, Steven assured his grandfather he’d remember anything and everything he told him.

His grandfather continued, “If you think someone is better than you, always remember that you are the only one who is thinking the other guy is.” His grandson looked at him inquisitively and caught his grandfather off-guard with his response.

“So, you’re saying that I need to use my brain. Is that what you said, Grandpa?”

“You got it, Little Buddy! Many folks focus on what they are doing wrong, but the winners figure out what they are doing right.” His grandson replied with yet another super insight based on what he’d heard his grandfather say. “So I need to tell myself that I am good?” he asked. His grandfather smiled and went further.

“Not only do you need to tell yourself that you’re good, but you must always believe that you are great! You see, Little Buddy, you’ve got determination and grit. I’ve been watching you throw those stones for over two hours, and anyone who stays at it that long has what it takes to be a winner even though he may get a bit down on occasion!”

As they walked back up the hill to the home Steven’s grandfather built for himself and his wife twenty years earlier, his grandfather took hold of his Little Buddy’s hand and stated the last piece of wisdom Steven would ever hear him provide. “You’ll be at the pitcher’s mound next season, and I’ll be there, too, Lord willing. When you’re on that mound, I want you to repeat to yourself what I’m about to tell you when you start to throw each ball. Are you listening, Son?”

Steven glanced at his grandfather and boldly stated, “Yes, Sir!”

“Okay, then, I want you to repeat this right after me. ‘When I feel down, I know God will lift me up!’” His grandson repeated it three times before they finally reached the front porch.

The next season came, and Steven looked into the stands searching for his grandfather’s always eager and proud face. “Mom, I don’t see Grandpa anywhere! Where is he?” he anxiously asked his mother of very strong faith. “Steven, Grandpa won’t be here today because God called him to be with him last night.” Steven began to cry as his mother consoled him with a firm and comforting hug. “Steven, Grandpa told me last night before he passed away to be sure to tell you that he loves you and to repeat what he told you to say to yourself when you get up to that mound.” Steven’s dark brown eyes steadied as he wiped his tears away with his baseball shirt’s sleeve. His tears wiped away, he immediately looked up and stated, “When I feel down, I know God will lift me up.” His mother’s eyes began to water as she patted him on the back and directed his eyes towards the pitcher’s mound. As he walked to the mound, his mother continued to hear him repeat what his grandpa instructed him to repeat.

With two strikes and three balls thrown awry in the bottom of the ninth inning, the crowd watched as Steven paused, knelt to one knee, muttered something and stood upright and proudly. He gazed into the eyes of the batter and shouted loud enough for the entire crowd to hear. “When I feel down, I know God will lift me up.” Oddly, he held the ball like the stones his grandfather had watched him throw that sunny day only one year ago. Steven poised himself with his gaze remaining in the batter’s eyes. Before the pitch was released, he remembered his grandpa’s other words of wisdom—“If you think someone is better than you, always remember that you are the only one who is thinking the other guy is.” He released the ball with a furious and awkward sidearm pitch that the “more-than-a-little-bit” intimidated batter never seemingly saw curve over the middle of the plate. “You’re out!” the umpire shouted and to Steven’s surprise, the crowd mostly comprised of the parents of both teams stood up and gave Steven a roaring applause. His team and the opposing team both rushed the field and carried him off the field.

Things had settled down after all the pomp and circumstance, and Steven noticed an old man walking his way. “That was a heck of a pitch you threw, Son,” the old man stated with the same look of pride his grandpa often had shown on his face.

“Sir, thanks a lot.” Steven appeared confused and asked, “Sir, do I know you from somewhere?” The old man grinned, and touched Steven gently on his shoulder before uttering, “No, Son, you don’t, but your grandfather did.” Steven excitingly exclaimed, “You knew my grandpa?”

The old man’s eyes began to fill with tears as he told Steven, “Your grandfather struck me out just like you did that boy when we were ’bout your age. He told me something I’ll never forget just before I got signed on with the National Baseball League.” Steven’s eyes lit up as he waited for what the old man would say next. “Your grandfather told me that my greatest asset in the Big League wouldn’t be my throwing or batting. He told me that if I ever thought someone was better than me, to always remember that I was the only one who thought the other guy was. What he never told me was what you shouted while standing out there on the mound. Your mother called me long distance late last night and asked that I come on down. I was feeling down on the trip to get here, but thanks to you, Son, God has lifted me up!”

Brian G. Jett

PICKLES. ©1997, The Washington Post Writers Group. Reprinted with permission.

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