Taking One For The Team

 

It was draft day at Parkwood Elementary School.

My schoolyard glory was at it’s peak during marble season (big hands), with success continuing through paper football season. I struggled through dodge ball season but rebounded respectably during Yo-yo and Top season.

Now, however, it was kick-ball season and things weren’t looking too good for me in today’s draft. See, there’s a coupla things you’re gonna need, to actually take part in a Kick-ball game. An ability to kick the ball, and an ability to run. I didn’t have either one of those. Doesn’t leave much wiggle room for interpretation either. If you can kick and run, you’re playing kick-ball. If not, you’re some guy standing in a field while classmates throw red rubber balls at you. Not really the kind of thing you can make up for with enthusiasm and a winning attitude either. It’s just what it is.

The field we played on was a pretty fair distance from the school building for a kid on crutches and braces, so the teacher let me leave a couple of minutes ahead of everyone else. The walk gave me plenty of time to pout and feel sorry for myself. Oh I wasn’t pouting because I couldn’t walk. I was feeling sorry for myself because I wanted to play. Polio was nothing compared with the cruelty of not getting to play. Heaven forbid. At this age I considered play, not just my right as a kid, but my calling, my duty, my responsibility. Not to mention my talent, gift, and super-power. I didn’t know much but I did know that, not playing, was just wrong. It was seeming quite unfair to me this day that I couldn’t play, even though I really, really wanted to. So there’s an obstacle or two to overcome I admit that, but couldn’t God, just this once, miracle a way for me to play today?

As I was muttering and grumbling my “prayer” to God, the other kids began to arrive. I stood still and became an unofficial finish line for a wave of racing children. Now, I never stood in the group of kids being picked for kickball for obvious reasons, but today the draft pool was  kind of forming around me. I probably should have moved away before the two captains started picking teams, but I couldn’t quite make myself do it. Oh what’s the harm? Figured I might stay until someone notices I shouldn’t be there. To my surprise though, no one said anything or even looked at me like I didn’t belong. Before you knew it, teams started being picked.

Captains quickly took turns picking from the pool of players. Calling one name, and then another. They hurried to get through, wanting to get on to the game. I thought this might work to my advantage. Maybe in their rush, they won’t notice I was picked. I was really starting to feel it too. I somehow knew God really was gonna pull off a miracle and let me play kick-ball with the other kids today. Of course I knew I would be picked last,……but ask me if I cared. All I wanted was to play.

I did my best to seem inconspicuous as the names clicked by. The draft pool shrank quickly as kids were picked. I was beyond excited, beyond happy, beyond pleased. This was a real moment for me. And then there it was. Someone called my name.

Wow!! I just got picked. I can’t believe it. When I heard my name called it rushed through my veins like cool water. I felt it all over. It was one of the best feelings I ever had. I just got picked.

I opened my eyes and moved to take my place with my team, when something else caught my eye. There was a kid left.

A very long story, happened in the blink of an eye. It happened in the tiniest of moments. If life would have happened the way it was suppose too, I would be picked last and everything is great. But I wasn’t picked last. Not being picked last meant that some innocent boy just felt every kid on the playground look at him and wonder how bad do you have to be that they would pick the kid on crutches and braces before they picked you? He had a stigma now. A judgement on him. He got it in a second but as you know, they can take a whole lot longer to get rid of.

I saw the boy droop with the weight of what just happened. It took the starch out of me too. I just wanted what I wanted. It never crossed my mind it might hurt someone else for me to get it. I felt helpless because the damage had already been done, and there was nothing I could do to make it better. I stood still a minute thinking it through.

I struggled without ever getting a good grip on it, but I did know this. I did know that somehow I was older right now, than I was just a moment ago.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steve Scroggins
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 20:44:27

    Hi, Jay, long time! We bumped into one another in the last decade when you were online (email) researching info on the Clinic at the Medical Center. Hope all is well with you. I remember those Parkwood days… the tops, marbles and the clackers. I remember the kickball and the hotbox. When I went back as an adult… the hallways seemed to have shrunk by more than half… I remember wide hallways, but it was actually much narrower from atop a 6’2″ frame. A thought-provoking story, intended I’m sure, and successfully… to make us think. A friend and fellow Parkwood alum posted on Facebook. Regards –steve

    Reply

    • Jay
      Aug 10, 2013 @ 06:39:54

      Hey Steve. Very good surprise hearing from you. You might be interested that one of the stories here Crippled Children’s Church, is all about the Crippled Childrens Clinic there at the medical center. Hope life is treating you well Steve. Even more I’m thankful you’re enjoying, and being encouraged by all these polio stories. Hey, if you ever run across photo’s of the old crippled children’s clinic in the archives, I would love to see them. Thanks for everything Steve.

      Reply

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