Sister has played in nearly 20 softball games this summer. Sister is not very athletic, let me be clear, sister is not at all athletic. But sister has heart – and a lot of it! I frequently say that ADD is not for the feint of heart and it is never more true then when she is at bat. She hits like a pro during practice, her coaches rave about her connecting – “This will be the game! She’s hitting everything we are sending her. She’s ready!”
She gets up to bat and is so distracted by the bright lights and cheering teammates that all that hard work seems to have disappeared right before our eyes. But sister never hangs her head – EVER. She shoots me the same bright smile and trots off the field with her head held high. I imagine her thinking “Next time I’ll get it.” Then she resumes her place at the fence squirting water with her friends and cheering for each and every batter to step up to the plate. That’s our Shannie.
She has hit a ball once before, in a comical sequence of events than ended up with the bat connecting with the ball and her staring at it in amazement. Her coaches were yelling for her to run and yet she stood there transfixed and perhaps perplexed at the fact that she had actually connect the ball and bat. When all was said and done – she made it to first base by a mile because in 8 year old softball it takes about 45 minutes for the ball to come from the 3rd base line to first base.
Last night was a different kind of night. It was late – very late for their little 8 year old bodies to be playing softball in the stifling heat. We were on a new and bigger field, the darkness made the lights brighter, the nearness of the other fields amplified the fan noise, and it was the last game of the season. In essence, it was a recipe for disaster for my ADD kid. Her first at bat was unimpressive, but in the bottom of the final inning the Gator Girls attempted a rally. The bases were loaded and there were 2 outs. We still had no hope of winning, the score was 16-3, and sister was up to bat.
Sure enough the first pitch was the one and Shannon sent it flying into the outfield. She was ecstatic, her team mates were ecstatic, and I might have cried. She ran faster than her little legs had ever moved and the dugout erupted with cheers. But in the end, on the way home, it wasn’t the amazing hit, the RBI, or the run into home that made her night. It was this:
Me: Are you proud!?
Her: Yes! We all played good!
Me: But are you proud of you!?
Her: I’m always proud of me.
Me: (humbled) Yeah I know.
Her: I’m proud of my team.
Her: Because I’m basically the worst player on the team, and they never told me that.
Me: That’s pretty awesome.
Her: And they were really excited for me when I hit.
Her: I think I’m going to play softball again.
Me: (still not getting it) Because it’s fun to hit the ball?
Her: Because it’s fun to be part of a team.
Me: Yes… my sweet… yes.
Never once in the last 20 games did Shannon ever hear someone wish she wasn’t on the team. Never once in the last 20 games did anyone ever make her feel like her contribution was less. Never once in 20 games did Shannon lose her spark, her spirit, or her joy, because her teammates wouldn’t let her. They were together, they were a team all the time. And when she hit – they all jumped for joy. Every single one of them celebrated with her. Not a single “It’s about time” or “finally” or “it was an accident.” Nothing but sheer joy and enthusiastic celebration. It certainly is fun to part of a team.
I’m positive there is a distinction between being on a team and being part of a team. Being on a team is like a placement. It is where you are assigned or where you stand. My shoes are on my feet. They aren’t my feet and they can be taken off at anytime. They can help, or hurt, and I’ll get new ones when they aren’t serving me anymore.
But to be part of a team, now there’s something special. Part indicates not whole. To be part of something means that without your part the whole is not complete. Your part matters to the very essence of the whole. To be part of a team says that you are not just performing a task or have been assigned there, but you have been grafted into the whole of the team.
In our family sports experience we have been on many teams. But this might be the first that we’ve been part of, and what an experience. To be celebrated as a whole and to be honored as part of the team means she is one of them so completely that her success was their success and her challenges were theirs as well.
We crave the ability to be part of something so deeply that perhaps we cling to anything in order to find it. We wish to be part of a sports team fanbase to identify with others by the clothes we wear and the cheers we chant. We wish to be part of a religious group so much that we adhere to their practices and belief systems if even we don’t agree. We wish to be part of our political system so much that we tend to support ideals that maybe aren’t our own just to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
But I wonder what would happen if we decided to just be a part of each other. To love each other so fully that the success of others becomes our success, and the failure of others becomes our failure as well. That we carry each other so completely that our team is left empty if one part isn’t present. What if we all were a part of this human family? What kind of team would we be?