it’s the miracle of being thisclose, ushered to a front-row seat, for the drama of the unfolding human spirit, that more than anything takes my breath away. my whole life long, i’ve found myself perched in watch posts where i could absorb and chart every flinch of the face, every swelling of the human heart, as i learned just how expansive the soul could be.
i’ve watched children bravely take their mama’s hand, as they were rolled into rooms for spinal taps. i’ve watched those unflinching children tell their mamas not to worry, it would all be okay. i’ve watched those children make their mama laugh, as she brushed away a tear, and then found herself doubled over, caught in i-can’t-believe-he-just-did-that, as the kid was rolled away in mickey mouse glasses (pulled out from under the pillow case).
i’ve watched a kid sit down to write a letter to the principal, letting the head of school know that he’d witnessed injustice at the lunch room table, injustice in the name of bigotry because of the way that someone prayed. i watched that kid fold the letter, and send it off, awaiting eighth-grade justice.
this week i’ve been watching a kid i love live and breathe the sort of courage that means everything when you’re a soccer-loving kid, and you’ve been told once already that you don’t belong on the high-school roster. i’ve watched that kid all summer lace up those soccer cleats, lift weights, all but stretch himself with ten-pound discs tied to his ankles as he lay in bed at night. he’d do anything to grow a couple inches. maybe half a foot, if there’s one to spare. i’ve watched him forego cherry pie on his birthday, because he thought the sugar just might shave a chance off his hopes of winning this time round. it’s a three-day test of courage, and we’re not yet at the end.
so all i can do — resigned to supporting role as scrambler of eggs, purveyor of blackberries, filler of water bottle — is stand back and hope and pray like there’s no tomorrow. because, darn it, tryouts end today, and we’ve lived once already through that crushing silence of a kid whose heart is shattered.
for those who think it’s mere cliche to say “my kids are my teachers,” i say this: phooey.
take a seat. open up your playbook. and watch a kid whose shoes you used to lace, to tie in floppy bows, watch that kid hold his head high, step onto the playing field — in the face of all his friends and coaches charting every move — watch him show you how it looks to stare down kids who tower over you in half-foot measures, watch him take the balls at full impact, dive into unforgiving turf, dust off the scrapes up and down his knees and elbows, and rise up again.
watch him hope. watch him hope so hard it hurts.
and you, not nearly so brave as the kid who teaches you, you sometimes get withered by nothing more brutal than a nasty line shot across the internet. from someone you don’t even know. for all you know, it’s nothing but a bot (one of those cyber-ghosts who churn out idiocies and fake news by the megabyte). talk about lessons to be learned.
of all the breathtaking filaments that comprise the growing of a human child, it’s the front-row witness that astounds me most, that leaves me brimming with blueprints for how to be a fuller version of who i thought, who i hoped, i could be.
it’s not just parents, of course, who get the chance to see the inch-by-inch stretching of another’s soul. doctors see it every day. can you imagine looking someone in the eye and delivering the most somber news? watching that someone not crumble, not lash out, not let spew a mighty line of damnation, but instead take the diagnosis with more grace than you swear you could ever muster? can you imagine being the teacher who day after day tries to navigate a kid through vowels and consonants that insist on being muddied, that appear to the kid to be indecipherable hieroglyphics, and then one day, without a drumroll, the kid, who’s never wobbled, suddenly reads straight across a line? and what about the priest or pastor or cop who takes in confession, who looks into the crumbling face of someone who bares his sin? who makes no flimsy excuse, lays no blame, and is crushed by the truth of how much irreparable hurt he’s done?
it’s in those rare uncharted moments when the screen is pulled away, when the screen that stands guard in front of stripped-down soul is erased from the equation, and what you see is unfettered human character. like peeking into the knobs and wires that make an engine run. only in this case, it’s the fibers of courage, of resilience, of this-is-where-i-choose-to-take-the-higher-road.
it takes your breath away — every blessed time. offers you a glimpse of straight-up holiness, the way that God meant for us to be. and, frame by frame, i am taking notes, stockpiling all these lessons. front-row student in the school of courage, of immeasurable blessedness, of grace in action.
and so, i crack and scramble eggs. i keep watch from my post here at home. i wave from the front stoop as the car pulls away. i watch the clock. i pray. and i gird my heart for what may come. and marvel at the gift of watching a very brave kid stare down the very odds that would wither a less determined soul.
dear patron saints of soccer, have mercy.
who are your heroes in the soulful department?
This took out my insides.
Andrea Lavin Solow Sent from my iPad
Squeeze hug. Xox
Oh, oh, oh. My heart. All the feels. Hear every word. Will be waiting to hear news. No one has a bigger heart than T. Except you. xoxoxoxo
Love you, friend who reads my heart like a fine-print book. Xox
Again, BAM, your words are like a warm blanket and a cup of hot tea on a chilly night; comforting and reassuring. And, good luck to your youngest at soccer try-outs. No matter the outcome, you’ve taught him resiliency.
He’s teaching me. As I wrote in his birthday, he’s been defying odds since the day he was conceived. #theeggthatwouldn’ttakenoforananswe!
I love opening up your blog every Friday morning to find this dollop of humanity. Fingers-crossed for the soccer boy!
and, believe me, it’s religion to me to begin every friday dipping deep inside my heart and trying to pull out something worth a dollop. xoxox
A profile in courage if there ever was one!
Big prayers today for you and yours,
thanks, darling. i do know — deeply — there are more profound playing fields for courage to be exercised. but aren’t these all the steps along the way, the places where resilience takes on muscle, where the first breaths of courage are inhaled and exhaled. xoxo
Bless your courageous young man for showing us what true stature is. One cannot help but look up to him and be edified. Your essay this morning leaves me breathless, yet energizes me to stand tall before Goliaths of my own. Thank you — both of you. xoxo
our lives are populated with Goliaths. and the davids inspire us, time after time. sending love, dear A. xoxox
Soccer guy has a whole lot going in his favor (in addition to cheerleader Mama). Familiar with Angela Duckworth’s research? Talent x effort (aka “grit” – persistence and passion) = skill; skill x effort = achievement. Your guy has both in spades! And a related great movie – one of my favs – is “Rudy” – short kid from working class family in Joliet with undiagnosed dyslexia has goal to go to Notre Dame AND play football there. And over many years and amazing persistence, he does just that. A true story. OK, wishing your guy the best!
dear paula, will definitely check it out. this kid has been a collector of inspirational films since he was little — it seems to be the air he breathes. love the duckworth research. and love your words of pure compassion, thank you.
Oh my heart … been right where you are today … holding onto hope and lifting continuous prayers. I remember when my youngest was shattered when she was skipped over on the all-too-important invite list and sat alone as everyone else was included and she was not. Our kids are our lives, our very existence. When they hurt, we are shattered and searching for the right words and actions.
Parenthood: the most heartbreaking, heartwarming, frustrating, wonderful job everyone will ever have. I’m pulling for you, Mr. T. xoxo
thank you, my beautiful. all kids have too many of these stories in their back pockets. which makes it all the more beautiful when, say, the girl once not invited becomes the rocket scientist at the brilliant college. and aren’t we blessed to know the whole sweep of the story, and all those unseen, unheard moments that are woven into the tapestry of who they are: magnificent at every turn.
pssst! sweet angels, it’s early saturday morning and i am tiptoeing over here to leave word that the heavens opened wide last night, the patron saints of soccer dolloped mercy, and the boy above made the team. the coaches told him he “made it impossible” to cut him, so they picked three goalies for two slots, and told him he’ll have to fight for playing time. all he wanted was a chance. and he’s got it, thank the heavens. as i type this, bacon is in the oven getting crisp, the bread pudding he was too nervous to eat on his birthday is being zapped in the heating-up machine, and a big pile of berries are on his “you are special today” plate. he’s chowing down before his first official practice for a team in two years. hallelujah!
bless you all for whispering any words of hope, for squeezing my trembly hand from afar, and for just being the best chairs in all the world. xoxoxox
Sooo delighted for your determined young man and for his cheering squad!
Thank you, beautiful HH!
Bravo! So glad I didn’t get a chance to read this until Sat. And I always read the comments because they are always heart warming just like your beautiful words. So happy for your son. We’ve endured similar heart stressing moments here and it’s just as hard to hear about others in the same boat. But as all of us wise parents know soccer tryouts are practice runs for the rest of life! He’ll go far – Energy & Effort. Enjoy the soccer season.
Indeed, “practice runs for life”! Well said, wise friend. I love knowing you realize the comments here are always delicious, and priceless! My favorite parts every time….
Oh, our hearty congratulations to T and the whole family! We think the world of T and I’m sure the coaches do too. Enjoy!
thank you, beautiful PJT & co. love to you and yours, always. xox
A happy healthy heartfelt hooray!
thank you! thank you! still pinching ourselves over here. funny how the heartache of last year just serves to double-amplify the joy. life is like that…..all those gradations and shadows, the textures, all add up to something to behold…..
Oh! The universe just expanded a bit more! Sooo happy! Are you twirling about, inside and out?
Perfect word: “twirling.”