When I read this story, it touched my heart. When I read anything about children with Down's or have a chance to interact with them, it resonates deep within me. This story in particular made me think of my childhood Sunday School class--when we had a lady who had Down's Syndrome in our class--and reflect on how we treated her. This story also brought back memories of my sweet little friend, LL, for the time I was at college. I saw how her little classmates and friends showed her kindness--and put to shame college students who didn't know the meaning of showing kindness to someone who was handicapped.
I am also hopeful for the time when my little sister grows up, and she will know that not everyone out in the big, wide world is mean-spirited...some actually care.
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.
After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query. The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped, comes into the world, opportunities to realize true human nature presents itself--in the way other people treat that child." Then he told the following story:
Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?"
Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team; but, the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and a few boys nodded approval, why not? So he took matters into his own hands and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning." Shay struggled over to the team's bench and put on a team shirt with a broad smile. His father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team put aside their desire to win for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over, the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all his team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, struggling in his efforts.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball--the smallest guy on their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the way Shay!" Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the "grand slam" and won the game for his team.
"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "The boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world." Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!