Any parent who has had a child play sports on any team knows exactly what I am about to describe. At some point, your kids' team plays a team that has a giant on it. There is always one kid who is a head taller than everyone else, built like a semi truck, with a hint of a mustache, who has all the parents crying foul and muttering to themselves there's no way that kid is a first grader! It never fails. But this year, I am happy to say that giant of a child is on our team, not the opposing one. (gleefully rubbing hands together) This boy on Nate's baseball team is enormous, and he can hit the ball farther than most grown men.
But our team also has the exact opposite kind of boy on it. He's small for his age, and everyone can guess that athletics are not his strong suit. He's been on a few teams before this and has a reputation of being inattentive, unskilled, and immature. It's not that he's trying to play badly, he just lacks some of the skills for whatever reason. His dad is a wheeler-dealer...always on the phone during practices, but also maintaining interest in what's going on in the field. He shouts out advice and encouragement to his boy, but I can see the hint of embarrassment sometimes. He isn't calloused or uncaring, he just wants his boy to have some success.
Then there's Nate. It's his first time playing ball, but he's got some natural talent. He gets hits, fields well enough that his coaches like to use him at important spots, and always has his attention and head in the game. He hustles. That's the main thing I like about his style of play. He's a decent player.
Anyway, the reason I'm bringing all of this up is because today, after a very long hot practice, as we walked to the van, Nate yelled out to two teammates. First he saw the second kid I described getting into the car with his dad and he yelled his name until he looked over and then he waved bye to him. And maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I could have sworn I saw a look of joy and gratefulness in the smile on that boy's dad. His boy may not be the play maker on the team, but he isn't an outcast. He isn't looked down upon.
We walked a bit further, and Nate saw the first boy and yelled out- Hey, nice home run today! and waved bye. And once again I was reminded about who Nate is. Just like it hits me when everyone at his elementary school seems to know his name and call out greetings to him. He's the kind of kid who can and will make friends with anyone and everyone. I jokingly call him Mr. Class President because he has a way of getting along with other kids and making them feel valued and appreciated. He isn't concerned about status, he doesn't see people as worthy or unworthy, good or bad. He'll make friends with the straight "A" students and the kids who always seem to be in trouble. He's friends with girls, boys, 5th graders, and Kindergartners. He comes to everyone unbiased, ready to accept, friendly and open.
Every time I think about this attitude Nate has I am reminded that I need to be a little more like him. He's a good example to me. I love that kid.