What Makes Us Feel Good Enough?

Peace-of-Eden Series no 3, 2006

On the third day of the Dancing with Dolphins experience that took place at the beginning of April, the Humpack dolphin re-appeared, and once again graced me with his presence. I met him last year, when he taught me about patience and trust, about living with love not fear, generosity and not jealousy. I knew he would come. This year, he was present with a gentle bottle-nosed dolphin mother and her new born calf. It was his protective presence that made her feel safe enough to nurture her new born calf. I am reminded that it is something as simple and as profound as the protective nurturing love of a strong father and a caring mother that makes children feel special and good enough.

I want to share with you a story that showed me that the way in which we treat those who are vulnerable - not only because they are little like the new born dolphin calf, but because they are disadvantaged in some way, physically, emotionally or financially – can make us feel ‘good enough’ about who we are! In other words how we treat people can affect how we see ourselves. When we are hurtful to someone something honorable inside us shrinks, and when we treat people with kindness, something valuable inside us swells with a feeling of well-being.

At a school for disabled children a father gave the following speech: He extolled the school and its dedicated staff for their hard work and then cried out, “…but where is the perfection in my son, Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection, but my child cannot understand things as other children do. Where is God’s perfection in this?”

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by the piercing enquiry. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is the way people react to this child.”

He then told the following story about his son, Shaya: One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, “Do you think they will let me play?” Shaya’s father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.

Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked round for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We are losing by 6 runs and the game is in the 8th inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the 9th inning.” Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly.

Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. Shaya’s team scored again and now with 2 outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up to bat.

Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was impossible because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact. Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for him to pitch the next ball.

Again the pitcher took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to the right field, far beyond the reach of the first baseman.

Everyone started yelling, ‘Shaya, run to first! Run to first!” Never in his life had Shaya run to 1st base. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached the 1st base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the 2nd baseman who would tagged Shaya out as he was still running. But the fielder understood the pitcher’s original intentions and threw the ball high over the head of the 3rd baseman’s head. Everyone yelled, “Shaya, run to 3rd! Run to 3rd! As Shaya rounded 3rd base, all the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, ‘Shaya run home!” Shaya ran home, stepped on the home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a ‘grand slam’ and won the game for his team.

“That day”, said the father softly with tears rolling down his cheeks, “those boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”