” I am special because … I am really good at playing soccer.”
Saw this today. A mother’s shout-out from her teacher-parent conference, complete with an image of her young child, kindergarten age, with a quotation bubble completing this phrase. His smiling face hovered atop a cutout body, colored with red and green crayolas.
It is no surprise that this child has skills advanced for his age. His parents are dynamite soccer players. From the cradle, he has been immersed in this game. It’s a great game. Wonderful to teach children how to use their bodies well, and when they’re older, how to work with teammates, how to take direction from coaches, how to focus on what’s important and not on all that chatter from the sidelines.
But little one, though today you may excel at playing soccer compared to your teammates or classmates or age mates, there will come a day when, by comparison, you may fall short. And on that day I hope you will remember what was true long before this day. I hope you hear it from your teacher, your coaches, your parents — even and especially if they’re also you’re coaches: you are special before you ever take the field.
I know they feel this way, but perhaps in the muddle of midget soccer things have gotten confused or at least confounded. You have connected yourself with capability and so you wear your confidence proudly. You’re rewarded for your accomplishment and it becomes hard to distinguish yourself from it. It’s who you are; it’s what you do; it’s what you love to do, what you’re meant to do, where you’re meant to be, who you’re meant to be; it’s what you’re made for.
How I would love this for you, if only….
If only, instead of “I am special because I can…,” you could begin with “I am special because I am …..” Unique in all the world. The only me that will ever be. Nothing compares with that.
Be bold, little one, but first, be you.
I just love to compete! folks say to me, pretty much never.
I’m not the competitive type, they say, pretty much always.
And then they cut each other off in conversation. One-up each other in accomplishments. Go off about something on Facebook. Cannot believe that offending patron! Swerve around that maniac who is texting while driving. While on the way to run this place the way it should be run. Every day. Even on Sundays.
Not competitive, though. We’re above this. Don’t dirty my hands with that sort of thing. It will all work out in the end, they say. Always does, right? Let’s not keep score. That way, everyone wins. Everyone goes home happy.
Nope. Not the competitive type.
Watch out for these folks. Don’t let ’em fool you. Because last time I checked we were all doing the same thing: playing to win at a game none of us can avoid losing.
What these people who ‘don’t like to compete’ are really saying is that they don’t like to keep score. They don’t want to be measured, because measuring shows where we stand. It tells how we’re doing, how far we’ve come, and which direction we’re moving.
It shows us who is ahead which is, for now, who is winning.
Oh, but quantifying this makes it so cold and unforgiving, they say. Where is your compassion? your kindness? your empathy? Where is your humanity, woman?
Daniel Murphy just loves to compete.
As he strides to the plate we know his current batting average, his on-base percentage, his tally of homeruns, RBIs, and extra base hits. We know how well he does with runners in scoring position, how many times he’s walked, been hit by a pitch and scored. We know how many times he has faced this particular pitcher, how he’s fared, and therefore, how this particular match-up is likely to go.
We love measuring. we love predicting. we love evaluating the odds to see what the chances are. These days we know everything because we measure it. everything, that is, except what will happen this time.
The only one paying no attention is Daniel Murphy. He’s just looking for a hit.
He’s not thinking about the hours of preparation that brought him to this moment. He’s not worrying about the last time he faced this pitcher. He’s even immune to the boo’s from the crowd (which, may I say NY, is poor form?) which actually signify how well he’s done against his former team.
No. Murphy has one thing on his mind: this pitch. And with all of the wizardry he can muster and all of the artistry at his command, he is focused on getting his bat on this ball and putting it somewhere where no one can catch it. He’s looking to get on base. And then to get to the next base and the next and then finally home.
Daniel’s serious about this game. He plays to win it. And he seems to be having the time of his life!
Fast balls, curve balls, splitters, cutters and change-ups. Bring ’em high and tight or low and outside. Throw ’em all. The best in the game do, as the best in the game will. That’s what he knows will make him the best in the game. That’s the fun of it.
Who’d want to play a game where there was no winner? We’re made to measure.
Each set off
at his own pace
with her own rhythm
in their own style.
Bounce.. bounce…. bounce. bounce…boun..ce bounceee.. bou..bbounce
in their joy and merriment,
leaping and playing,
of their own accord.
They were finished, then.
Rank and file,
Oh, the sound.
To sameness, calm,
quiet, appeasement, rhythm.
So easy to slip in,
under the waves,
along for the ride,
go with the flow.
There was another sound.
Quiet, but clear.
Of opportunity beckoning,
between the bouncing,
between the bouncing.
Am I the only one who hears it?
Close ranks! Tighten up!
Rapid fire. Precision.
It was a competition, after all.
There was a Prize.