There is a school in Brooklyn, New York, that caters to children with physical and learning disabilities. Some children remain in this special place, called Chush, for their entire school careers.
After a fund-raising dinner the father of a Chush child rose and addressed the audience. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff he changed his tone and cried out, “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. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God’s perfection?”
The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by his piercing query.
“I believe,” the father answered, “that when God brings a child like my Shaya into the world the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.
“Let me tell you a story…
“One afternoon, he and I were walking past a park where some boys whom Shaya knew were playing baseball.
“Shaya asked, ‘Do you think they will let me play?’
“I knew that my son was not coordinated like most boys his age and that most would not want him on their team. But I also understood that if my son was chosen to play it would give him an enormous, extra-ordinary sense of belonging. So I approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his team mates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said ‘We are 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 up to bat in the final inning.’
“I was ecstatic. Shaya smiled broadly. He was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning his team scored again and now, with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. 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. There was no drama, or debate. One of his new team mates just handed him the bat… Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it.
“However, as my son stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so he should at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s team mates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch.
“The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward my son. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his team mate swung at the ball 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 right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.
Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first. Run to first.” Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out the still-running Shaya.
“But the right fielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head.
“Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second.” Shaya continued to run towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, “Run to third.”
“As Shaya rounded third the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya run home.” Shaya ran home, stepped on 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 now rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of God’s perfection.”
“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!”
The facts checking Snopes web site reports: The story quoted above is “Perfection at the Plate,” a work of Rabbi Paysach Krohn which appeared in his 1999 book, Echoes of the Maggid.
Echoes is a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” type work, described by its publishers as “heartwarming stories and parables of wisdom and inspiration.” It is the fifth such tome in the Maggid series. Rabbi Krohn says that the story is true and that he was told it by Shaya’s father, who is a friend of his. (The “Chush” school mentioned is the Jewish Center for Special Education on Kent Street in Brooklyn, a school that caters to Yiddish-speaking children with disabilities.)
The 18 boys who made Shaya’s grand slam happen probably learned as much of a lasting lesson that day as any other single event in their young lives… that giving can be richer and more wonderful and more lasting than receiving.
OK and one more story, this one on a young boy learning to play baseball.
A young boy stands with a baseball bat on his shoulder and a baseball in his other hand and says, “I am the best baseball player in the world. I am the best baseball player in the world.”
He is a skinny, but determined 14 year old.
Over and over: “I am the greatest baseball player in the world. I am the best in the world.”
And then he throws the ball up in the air and he grabs the bat with both hands and he swings with all his might and he misses.
The ball lands on the ground. “Strike one,” he says.
He picks it up, looks at it hard and starts all over again, “I am the best baseball player in the world. I am the best baseball player in the world.”
And he threw the ball up in the air and he takes another mighty, ‘though awkward, swing.
He misses again and the ball lands on the ground. Again he picks it up and takes a deep breath, looks at the ball hard and starts all over again, “I am the greatest baseball player in the world. I am the greatest baseball player in the world.”
And he throws the ball up in the air and he grabs the bat with both hands and he takes a mighty swing.
He misses. Again. And the ball lands near his feet.
The boy looks down and says under his breath, “Strike three. Strike three.”
And he reaches down and picks up the ball and holds it in his hand a moment, smiles and says, “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world. The best pitcher in the world.”