a prayer for those who didn’t make it
we said a prayer last night. for all the ones who didn’t make the team. the ones who tried out in pouring rain and chill winds, three nights running. the ones who laced up, hoped and dreamed. especially for the little one who held his father’s hand, hid behind a tree and never even made it on the field.
then yesterday, when the list went up, when the teams were all disclosed, when the cuts came clear and cold, spelled out in numbers on a list, some 20 of the 60 boys scanned and held their breath. looked high and low to find their number somewhere on the roster. didn’t find it.
my little one did. his number, there. right smack where he hoped it would be.
but all day long, and especially in the moments when we waited, before our eyes fell sharp and clear on the 1-1-8 that belonged to him, i couldn’t help but think of 7-year-olds and 8-year-olds finding out too soon perhaps that they didn’t measure up.
not by this measure anyway.
i struggle mightily with these sorts of measures, with any sort, i think. and i can’t wholly tell you why. only that i live and breathe to see the wholeness, the completeness, in each and every one of us. that, mightily, i pray that all of us could bathe and bask in the holiness of who we are.
maybe for too long i felt like i fell short.
maybe there’ve been too many nights of tears in my own kitchen, holding on, wishing more than anything that i could soothe the wounds, staunch the drip-drip-drip, of my own child who’d been told somehow he wasn’t fill-in-the-blank enough.
and here we are, in a world where winning seems to count for everything. where all the glory comes to those who charge the field, seize the goal, rise triumphant. where the stumbles, too often, go ignored.
where i wonder who is pausing now to consider all those broken hearts, the soccer dreams in shatters on the pillows in the houses all around this town, every town, everywhere.
i’ve no idea, really, how it is we teach the human heart to go beyond its borders, to consider how the other child feels. but i won’t stop trying. won’t turn in the book of empathy. and this seems, indeed, time again to stretch and reach and plant another seed.
it is, perhaps, the most essential lesson that we teach.
we spend our years, some of us, mumbling and muttering words that might, frankly, enter one ear and exit straight out the other.
but we mumble and mutter anyway.
we mumble and we pray.
we pause and say the words.
dear God, we prayed last night, my little one and i, please take care of all the hearts that are sad tonight, the ones who didn’t make it.
my little one prayed along. or at least he echoed all the words.
i prayed in double-time, praying not only the prayer itself but also that some little crumb, a dust speck maybe, of the message here settled on my brand-new soccer player’s heart.
that especially when we grab hold of what we wanted, more than anything, we remember those who didn’t.
remember what it feels like. imagine what it feels like.
to go running in the rain, three nights long, and then be told by week’s end, that it wasn’t good enough. we weren’t good enough.
not everyone, i know, can be a winner all the time.
but dear God, i beg, bless the hearts of those who cannot understand, who wonder what it is that left them looking for a number that wasn’t there.
and now at merely 7- or 8-years old–so very, very young, really–they’ve come to stumble on a sort of sadness i don’t wish for any child.
do you worry about the shock to the human heart of being told you’re not good enough? did you suffer this when young? how did you survive, climb out of that dark hole? how have you been tested to soften the blow when it came to someone you love? what are your thoughts on social constructs that are built on a foundation of some-win-some-lose, that’s-the-way-the-world-works? need it be that way? or is there, please Lord, some other gentler way?
Not sure yet if there is a gentler way- only strong gentle souls who through many scratches and heart breaks take it on the chin again and again and act as navigators for those gentle souls who haven’t quite yet fledged out their strength wings yet.
9 comments: (these didn’t get moved to the new site, when the moving vans came. so i am bringing in boxes, one by one…)
years ago as a public school primary grade reading teacher part of my job was to have kindergarten teachers select members of their classes who might be early readers for a formal program. i tried to explain to those—-the majority—who weren’t included that each child might have a uniqueness ——maybe being a good bicycle rider or a fine runner or a lovely singer or a creative artist— but it never took the sting away for those five and six year olds who didn’t “make it.” research the following decade showed by third grade many of the unchosen were doing as well or had surpassed the original group in comprehension and inferential skills.
now all children in the K thru 8th grade district here in NJ read ‘just right books’ individually and enjoy the process. this is a far better teaching method with a mini- skills lesson presented to the whole class so that each girl and boy is exposed to decoding, etc., etc. and what a thrill for me after 50 plus years of teaching to walk into a class and to see kids so mightily engrossed and so thoroughly enjoying books. i get goose bumps to this day.
Friday, June 5, 2009 – 02:07 PM
My very athletic daughter was cut from a competitive 8th grade soccer team that she already played on, and the parent head of the team organization came to our house to deliver the news in person–like the military sending officers to announce a death (there were just two cut, as during tryouts there were two new to the area players who were better). I appreciated the intention of the parent head, but he gave the notice BEFORE the roster had been published, and so my daughter had several days and another practice and game to attend where there were all these giddy and worried girls wondering if they’d made the team or not, and she knew that they had, and she had not. I think I was more upset over the long haul than she was. What has happened since? My daughter at age 29 still loves sports, and reported this week that her MBA school co-ed softball team just won the intermural championship after she made a leap over a catcher to tap homeplate. And me? The parent head of this long ago girls soccer program hired me 6 years ago and is boss! I guess time heals all wounds!
Friday, June 5, 2009 – 06:23 PM
First of all, is this tryouts for travel team? Or is this the only opportunity to play this sport (ie – no rec league at all?) It is the height of absurdity to weed out the “bad players” completely at that age – giving them no opportunity to learn the game at all – but I’ll bet there’s a rec league around for the child to play in, so he can improve his game and figure out even if he likes the sport.
I was a horrible athlete at first, but got better with age – what that taught me is you can’t win ever if you give up. And you can’t win if you don’t work at it. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t win because someone else tried even harder. Such is the life we lead. Life is filled with celebration – and with loss – and with joy – and with defeat. It’s all of those things.
We cannot, as mothers, protect our children from the downside of it, as much as we’d love to.
I tell my kids, when they’ve experienced a bad day on the field, that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Now that didn’t stop him, did it? The little one, who hid behind the tree, sounds like the only dream that died that day was the father’s.
We’re lucky to live in a country that guarantees the pursuit of happiness, but nothing can guarantee happiness all the time. In all honesty, Barb, that our children live in a time and place where not making the team is their biggest disappointment – well that’s a very lucky time and place to be, IMHO.
Saturday, June 6, 2009 – 01:23 PM
dear anne, your last point is WELL taken. yes yes yes…..i guess i’m just a softie and it breaks my heart to think of little kids who wanted something enough to try out for it, but then not get it. it helps to hear from folks like you and relda (talking about her daughter) who started out with a bump or two, and then built on that. i was NEVER much of an athlete, on purpose. i had four brothers and a mom who were all pretty darn athletic, so i distinguished myself by being a goofball. early on, though, i realized i was in the latter rounds of being picked for anything, so i probably just exaggerated my lack of prowess and decidedly didn’t much try.
but back to these kids. yes, there are whole hosts of park district teams that are no-cut. it’s just this one thingie, a league for kids who really love it…..and i hate to think of those 20 kids…..and that’s just the boys-under 9 side of it. i’m sure there were girls too who didn’t make their teams…and boys and girls up the ladder…
i just wanted to put this out there to consider the notion of how we build solid kids when they are told soo young that somehow they don’t make the cut. i’m sure they get over it. but do they need to be put through such hoops so soon? and do we pay enough attention to those hurts?
Saturday, June 6, 2009 – 02:26 PM
“Smooth waters do not make for skillful sailors” – I think we should pray for the children who ALWAYS make the team and constantly reap the awards. There is much to be learned in disappointments. If a child is passionate about a sport or an art form, he or she will find a way to succeed, no matter the disappointments. Think Rudy. Think that Madeleine L’Engle’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” was turned down forty something times before being published. She just kept sending it in. Most successful people will tell us that it was their disappointments that taught them the most. Disappointment will sometimes put a child onto another soul path. We have to step back and let that happen. I know I sometime confuse my children’s sadness and disappointments with my old sadnesses. This is sometimes hard to discern on my part.
I think we should pray for all those who made the teams. May they learn wisdom, compassion, and fairness from their success – unlike some of those on the team you wrote of a couple “meanderings” back. They really need our prayers! 😉
Saturday, June 6, 2009 – 05:15 PM
My senior year of high school was when my football dreams were going to come true. My dream of being the varsity halfback were dashed mostly by an amazing halfback on our team who was all-area in his junior year…He was in a different league from me. Far better. So he was the star, and I played defensive back instead. Same position I played my junior year. Major deflating of dreams, adjusting to change, but as Iamcal says disappointment sometimes teaches the most. I ended up having a great season, and ironically, the star halfback, who thrilled us all, was hit so hard so many times carrying the ball that a finger was permanently damaged…I asked myself later “What if that were me?” I’ve relied on healthy digits as a professional pianist for the past 25 years. Thank God for the twists and turns, on the field and off.
Saturday, June 6, 2009 – 06:35 PM
I agree with wise lamcal — there is much to be learned from disappointment. I also think as someone above said that perhaps it is the parent’s disappointment that is greater. Last year, my youngest tried out for her middle school’s choir. It is a fabulous choir. Award winning. Her older sister and brother had both been in the choir when they were in middle school. I assumed that my little one would make the choir. It was not even on my radar screen that she wouldn’t make it. Well, she didn’t. She was upset. But I think I was even more upset. I know I was more upset. She handled the disappointment brilliantly and I am so proud of her for it. I, on the other, still hold a grudge against the choir director. Who is more childish?
Saturday, June 6, 2009 – 08:06 PM
my beautiful beautiful chair friends. bless you, for lighting the light on the hard part, the part where the pinch comes to the heart. for saying in such compassionate words that the scripts that don’t play according to our dreams are often the ones whose lessons we don’t forget. that help us realign our hopes and dreams. remind us of who our natural essence is…..
lamcal, as always, you bring volumes of wisdom here. in what you bring, and how you bring it. bless those who have the gift of compassionately expressing opinion. perspective. who invite us to see another way and do it without pomposity or defensiveness. that’s a beautiful thing, and rarer by the day in a world where screaming heads outscream each other on the cable shows 24-7.
yes, pray for those who win all the time, that they might learn compassion and a gentle heart…..
Sunday, June 7, 2009 – 12:01 PM
context is everything, and so my thoughts on those who didn’t make it may be out of left field but along with the empathy, I think these kids really need adults to protect them. it’s one thing to volunteer for a summer league, a traveling team, a theatre troupe , or whatever, and the expectation is that some kids won’t make it the cut.
Teachers and parents need to reject a play that doesn’t have enough roles and duties for those who wish to join in. We need to re-educate those who can’t be bothered to make space for all the kids who aspire to participate.
So, one might think from these thoughts that I believe in equal playing time for kids on sporting teams.
Another subject, BAM?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 – 08:54 PM