a prayer for those who didn’t make it

by bam

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?