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Thanksgiving: Time to remember boys’ good deed

The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but also reveal to them their own. — Benjamin Disraeli

The Thanksgiving turkey takes center stage Nov. 27, but I will dispense with talk about Pilgrims and Indians and relate a story not directly tied to Thanksgiving.

But on the other hand, it is. Read it and consider whether you would have made the same decision under similar circumstances.

At a fund−raising dinner at a school for learning−disabled children, one student’s father delivered a speech that stirred the audience. After extolling the dedicated staff, he posed this philosophical question: What would each one have done under similar conditions?

He said: “My son, Shay, cannot learn as other children do. He cannot understand things other children do. And he cannot verbalize, socialize or ‘kibbitz’ with other children. Yet, I believe, when a special child like Shay comes into the world, many diverse opportunities to express human nature are presented in the way people interact with that child.”

Recently, the father and son had walked past a park where boys were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they will let me play?” The father knew that the boys would not want Shay on their team, but also knew that if Shay were allowed to play, it would give him a much needed sense of belonging and confidence.

The father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play. He expected an instant refusal. Instead, the boy looked around for guidance from his teammates.

None came, so the boy took matters into his own hands. He said, “Why not? We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team. We will try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”

The joyful father assisted Shay to the team’s bench. When the son put on a team shirt, a broad smile crossed his face and a small tear fell from his father’s eye. In the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored three runs, but they were still three runs behind.

Then came the top of the ninth. Shay put on a glove and played right field. No hits came his way, but he was ecstatic just to be on the field with the other boys. Grinning ear to ear, he continually waved to his proud father.

The bottom of the ninth found Shay’s team still losing. With two outs, however, Shay’s team loaded the bases. They had the potential tying run on base and Shay was scheduled to be the next batter. Should the team captain allow him to bat, thus forfeiting any hope of winning the game?

The captain did not hesitate. He gave Shay a light bat to swing. “One extra−base hit was needed to tie the game,” he said as he patted Shay on the back. All eyes were on Shay.

A teammate showed Shay how to hold the bat and he stepped up to the plate. The pitcher was deeply moved by the decision to allow Shay to bat in this crucial situation. So, he moved a few steps closer and softly lobbed the ball to Shay, who swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher then took a few steps closer.

As the second pitch was served, Shay hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. Shay should have been thrown out, ending the game. Instead, the pitcher deliberately threw the ball over the head of the first baseman. Everyone in the stands began yelling, “Run, Shay, run to first base!” Never had Shay run that far. He reached first base wide−eyed and breathless.

“Run to second base,” they screamed as the right fielder threw the ball away, too. Awkwardly, Shay lumbered to second base. He rounded second when the left fielder intentionally threw the ball far over the third baseman’s head. All three runners on base scored and tied the game.

“Shay, Shay, all the way,” everyone screamed. The opposing shortstop pointed to the direction of home plate and Shay tottered forward. Everyone was on their feet. Shay finally touched home plate: the winning run. He was cheered as the hero who hit a grand slam.

The father praised both teams for the extraordinary compassion that brought so much joy into his boy’s limited life.

Shay did not make it to another summer and died that winter a hero to all who saw him on that extraordinary day. The father questions, “Under similar circumstances, how many others would have shown similar compassion?”

On this Thanksgiving, I want to thank all the givers who have allowed the Shays of the world to play in life’s game.

Contact Alex Berger at news@timesledger.com.

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