Saturday, November 1, 2014

What would you do? You make the choice.

One of my husband's classmates from a time long ago, emailed him this story. It touched us deeply. I thought that I should share it with you. I hope it also reminds you that even in these difficult times you can still find man's humanity with each other. Well, read on ..... Here is the story I was given. And thank you to the sender.

What would you do?....you make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one.  My question is: Would you have made the same choice?
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:
'When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.
Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.
Where is the natural order of things in my son?'
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. 'I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.'
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, 'Do you think they'll let me play?' I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father   I   also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, 'We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.'
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.
Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, 'Shay, run to first!
Run to first!'
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.
He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, 'Run to second, run to second!'
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.
He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, 'Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay'
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, 'Run to third!
Shay, run to third!'
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, 'Shay, run home! Run home!'  Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team
'That day', said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, 'the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world'.
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
"Wow! No words need be added.  Have a nice day. Be good to one another."


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sister, Sister, Sister, Pick Me!

“Sist…Sist…Sist…” That’s the call of the devoted Catholic school student, begging to answer a question to impress Sister!  It was like a chorus of banchies trying to show off the knowledge gleaned through sweaty brows of the previous night’s study session!  It really didn’t matter what the answer was, but was more about the sounds that were made.  And it seemed Sister was oblivious to their and my pleading, almost agonizing calls for attention.  After all, how DO you fairly call on about 61 eager students competing by waving arms and hands while stretching impossibly from their seats to reach Sister, perched on the edge of her desk.  The desk was displayed squarely on a two foot high wooden platform in the front of the class.


In any public school, this chaotic enthusiasm would have been rewarded by a teacher’s delirious joy at the prospect of students eager to share what had been learned the night before.  But not here though!  Catholic school children gone mad!  Boys and girls alike, stretching their seated bodies into twisted pretzels as if to greet some rock star, instead of the menacing presence in the front who rewarded such enthusiasm with a stoic look of distain, as if to say, “You had better know that answer!”

We had all come to the conclusion that we were probably chanting “Sist…Sist…Sist…” and waving wildly because it had come to symbolize a ritualistic show of, “I’ve studied, and I want you to acknowledge me!”  Those who “Sist-ed” the longest and loudest, it was assumed had studied the hardest -into the wee hours of the morning.

I was among them.  Since we were chastised for screaming, I perfected my cries into a wailing and blistering “Sist” almost a death cry!  Effective, I thought, but to no avail.

With 61 wailing kids, both boys and girls in our eight grade class, it was a highly inefficient way for Sister to conduct a lesson.

 “Sist… Sist…,” I exclaimed, a hard snake-like hiss enunciating the call.  “Please pick me!  I’m prepared.”

So, Sister instituted a set of name calling cards. This large stack of white paper-stock quality cards, sat neatly perched with one elastic band (a rubber band to non-New Englanders) straining to keep 61 name calling cards in an upright position. And there you have it.  …Tidy, efficient, white, business-like cards, shuffled regularly at the beginning of class each day.  In fact, it was the first thing Sister did after class began.


We were all used to the whirling sounds the shuffled cards made in the hands of a highly skilled shuffler.  Perfectly executed.  Sister could have played a mean game of Poker if she played cards, which we all supposed she did NOT.  But looking back on eight grade from where I sit today, she did have a Poker face that no one in the class would have disputed! 

You would think this to be the end of the story, but it’s only just the beginning.  You see, Sister never counted the number of cards in the pile nor did she ever notice the pile dwindling throughout that month of October.  But I can assure you I felt gipped that year.  I was too timid to play the game! …until the opportunity literally fell into my lap.

Here’s how it all happened:  One day in early October, Sister’s elastic band, old and fragile from years of wear, broke!!! Sister just left the name cards stacked high and straight at the edge of her desk as always.  Then it happened!  Just as the lunch bell sounded, Joey walked by Sister’s desk and “accidentally” knocked over the complete stack of name cards with his elbow.  They scattered everywhere like confetti.  Joey made a beeline to straighten up the cards, making sure each name was faced correctly.  The rest of us, and Sister, were anxiously waiting for our dismissal to lunch.  We ALL saw it, all but Sister that is. Between the height of the platform and the desk obstructing her view, only the students were privy to what happened next.  Joey, slyly and without missing a beat, slipped his own name card up his sleeve!  He placed the cards in a nice neat pile on Sister’s desk and lined up like the rest of us.  That might have been the first time I saw Sister crack a smile.  Joey was a quiet boy, long and awkward, a typical boy of 13 years old.
But Joey wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree and between his shyness and not studying as much as he needed to, Joey felt he would be safe from the “name calling” by Sister.  Little did Joey realize just how many of us actually saw his feat of “magic”.  Make the name card go away, and never have to study for the rest of the year!  Now, Sister would surely notice a card missing from the pile! 

Well, October passed uneventfully, and Sister never did call Joey’s name.  And she never even noticed that Joey wasn’t called on.  Well, Joey even got up the nerve to stammer, “Sist…Sist…Sister.”  And by the end of October, he knew he was home free.  It looked like he studied, for he pleaded to be called by Sister, but as “luck” (NOT!!!) would have it, Joey just smiled and relaxed in class.


Throughout the month of October, Sister failed to secure the name calling cards with a new elastic band.  Those students who had witnessed Joey make his name card magically disappear, one-by-one, skillfully extorted their names from the pile, ensuring a comfortable stint in Sister’s class for the entire eight grade year.

The girls in the class, bound by honor but mostly by fear of getting caught, didn’t try removing their names.

All but me that is, and only by accident—or the grace or disgrace of God!  Shy, sweet, study-until-you-drop me!  It happened so naturally.  Sister approached me one day after the students were dismissed for lunch and handed me a wider, new elastic band with instructions to straighten up the name cards and then rubber band them.

“What?” …Opportunity knocked, and I was aghast!

“Thanks, Sister,”  I mumbled, and set to work.  There was my name, typed and right there in my hand.  I had fantasized about a moment like this. What a fantastic opportunity… to take my name out of the pile!  A wave of relief washed over me at the thought of no more pressure to answer to Sister for the rest of the year! 

I even counted the name cards.  I noticed the dwindling pile.  …Ten short of the 61.  Surely Sister should have noticed by now!  Trembling, I took my name card out of the pile and slipped it into my jacket pocket.  I then placed the elastic band snuggly around the name cards, and proceeded to lunch. 
Instead of the rush of victory coursing through my veins, the name card weighed me down like a ten ton boulder in my pocket.  My pocket was now a burden and my conscience screamed out-“Cheater”!
Should I confess?  Tell Sister what I knew about the other 10 cheaters too?

Upon returning to class, Sister got right to work, and I was safe from her scrutiny.  I felt relieved.  Only I still wasn’t happy.  I still studied each night, but now I wasn’t playing by the rules.  I felt miserable. 

I never did have an opportunity to replace the name card back, which was my intended plan to ease my own guilty conscience.  But I studied hard and in class I still called out wildly:  “Sist…Sist…Sister”, and each time, I looked over at Joey who had started the whole thing.  By May, he was an Oscar contender, but I decided to play it a bit more prudently.

And I suspect that those ten students who “Sist-ed” the loudest were the very ones who were the safest from the name card caller—Sister!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hot Lunches

I know we drank milk at lunch. I remember scrambled hamburger and elbow macaroni, and really loving that lunch. We sat at a really long table, picnic style, and the kids would pass down their unwanted food items, relay style, to someone at the other end who wanted it, and then pass the empty plate back. The scrambled hamburger and potatoes and peas, layered atop one another, was a favorite of mine. I mixed all three together to create a mangled pile of brown specks in mounds of white potatoes, dotted with green peas. I collected piles of potatoes, until my pile covered the dish and gushed over the sides, all the more fun to lick around the rim.  I remember that a lunch ticket could be purchased for $1.25 for the week. That gave me five hot lunches on a punch card.
I loved the hot lunches.

 I don't really remember pizza at all. 

 I do remember macaroni and cheese and that it was really good and cheesy. Nobody passed any macaroni and cheese down the relay line.  I do remember eating at a reasonable time, until I became a senior, and then my stomach growled most of the day. That’s when I remember
wishing lunch were alphabetical instead of by grade. The pathway to the cafeteria was through a dark and dimly lit tunnel, connecting the school with the cafeteria, in case of rain, I guess.  I remember when the tunnel to food was closed down permanently, and then having to walk through weather both snow and rain, now, the only way to the cafeteria.   I remember that I no longer cursed the tunnel.  Too late!   I guess some of my memories of school have faded, but I do remember loving my hot lunches!

I think that is where I actually learned to inhale lunch, and food in general—for the rest of my life!  That darn lunch ticket. Heaven forbid I couldn’t find it or that I lost it!  It would be the Spanish Inquisition if a student didn’t have it.
I always did!  …and not by chance.  I loved the Hot Lunches!!