Thursday, May 7, 2009

Give Them A Chance

I sat down to write this morning, a story in mind, a character to develop, a plot to work on. I went into the story with an open mind and a fresh attitude. I admit I haven't been in the best of moods lately so many of my stories haven't been coming out the way I want them to. Things just haven't been going the way they should. It shows in my writing. Well, it shows everywhere, but especially in my writing.

Writing isn't something I can just do straight through. I have to have the right mindset. Also, I need breaks. Every few hundred words or so I have to stop and do something else for a minute or two, then start back up. So, that is what I did today. I wrote about four hundred words, stopped for a second and checked my e-mail and looked at a web forum that I frequent (probably too much). A good friend of mine had posted a true story in this forum and I read it. It was about a young special needs boy who wanted to play baseball and the boys who let him play with them and how they aided him in succeeding in the game. The boy was a hero for a day and for the remainder of his short life he didn't forget the events of that afternoon. Sadly, the child died a few months later. The story was heart wrenchingly beautiful.

I leaned back in my chair, thinking of those events, picturing the little boy hitting a weak ground ball back to the pitcher. The pitcher intentionally overthrew first base. The other players followed suit, overthrowing each base and then cheering for him to run home, to score, to hit a game winning grand slam.

Some call it sportsmanship. I call it humanity. It's hard to let someone win at something—we are a competitive lot, us humans. But what these kids did was more than sportsmanship. It was more than humanity. It was all about giving someone a chance.

Do you understand what I'm getting at here?

They gave this kid—this boy who wasn't like them in many ways—an opportunity to do something they were physically gifted to do—something this child was NOT physically gifted to do. They gave him a chance to belong, to feel as if he were just one of the guys out playing ball before supper time.

In our world of money and competition and selfishness, these children put aside winning for the benefit of one person, one not like them. It was one of the greatest things each of these kids will ever do.

Isn't that what life is about? Giving? Helping?

Do you want to achieve greatness?? Do you want to feel good about what you are doing? Then take a page from these kids' books and give of yourself, put someone else ahead of you. Forget winning for a while. Forget being the best for a while. Forget about yourself for a while. Forget about money and fame and whatever else you want or feel you deserve in life. It's hard to do. Even for me, mister highly competitive himself.

Look around you. There's someone in everyone's life that we steer clear of, not because they're mean or snobby or have treated you wrong. No, we steer clear of these people because they are different. They're not like us. Maybe they're significantly overweight and you don't want to be seen with someone of that size for fear of what your friends may say. Wait, maybe the person is not as attractive as your standards would dictate for you to talk to them. Maybe they're too short or too tall or too thin or talk different or have a different skin color. Maybe they walk funny or are missing a limb or in a wheel chair. Maybe they have a disability or maybe they are an elderly person who smells like muscle and joint cream. Maybe it's the new person on the job or at the church or in the neighborhood. Maybe it's a homeless person. Who is it? Maybe it's someone in your own family that you've shunned or that you are not proud to call a family member. Yeah, we all have one of those, don't we?

I have a habit of attracting odd balls. Everywhere I go they seem to flock to me. Odd balls. You get that? Maybe they aren't so odd after all. Maybe, to them, I'm the odd ball? Maybe, to them, I'm the weirdo. You never know, do you?

Let's change gears here for a second but try to stay on the same track. In the everyday world we see all those seminars and pamphlets and television programs and books on self help or how to be successful. Education has a lot to do with it. So does drive and determination. You have to be willing to work at something to be successful at it. I say that all the time about writing. But, there is one thing that these self help/be successful guides leave out. In order to be successful, somewhere along the way, someone has to give you a chance. Someone has to say 'give it a shot.' Kind of like those boys did that day.

I don't care what anyone says, NO ONE gets anywhere without someone else giving them an opportunity to do so. We are given the prospect to succeed or fail every day. At our jobs, at our homes, out and about in everyday life. Success or failure is there for the taking. In order to have either of those you have to take a chance.

Okay, stick with me a little longer here.

I like to believe I am a decent writer—not great, not bad. I like to think that everyone would like my stories. Eh, not so much. For every acceptance letter I receive I get seven or eight rejections. It's the game of percentages and my percentages aren't too good right now. However, there are enough publications out there willing to give a no name like myself an opportunity to showcase my meager abilities. All it takes is the right person reading the right story at the right time. That can only happen when someone is willing to take a chance with someone they've never heard of. It's an endorsement on your abilities when an editor likes something of yours enough that they would publish it.

Even in the world of writing, which really is a cut throat sort of business, the right person at the right time can help create a success story. Or maybe gives the writer encouragement to continue on. For me, that person is Boyd Harris. I've mentioned him numerous times in the past and with good cause. It was his encouragement in a rejection letter that led me to trying harder, joining a workshop and learning the craft of writing. His encouragement came when I was at a crossroads with writing. I wanted to give up since it appeared no one liked anything I wrote at the time. He pointed me in the right direction and I didn't give in and quit like I thought of doing. I'd like to think I am a better writer because of it.

Life is really all about the choices you make. If you choose to do right by others, generally they do right by you. If you choose to do wrong by others, well, it is easier for bad deeds to get noticed and get talked about than good ones and people talk when the talking is juicy.

I've been a bit long winded today and I thank you for sticking with me through it all. Just remember this: You never know when something you do will affect someone in a way that changes them forever. Please, like those children who let the little boy play baseball with them, make sure the affect you have is a positive one.

I'm AJ and I'm out.