Jennifer Widemire Smith
His Land Has Many Giants
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
What does a seven year old know of good sportsmanship?
When Landon started baseball he was so excited. His daddy would be his coach. His friends from school, his teammates. His mom, the dugout coach. He had a new bat, new glove, new helmet. He wanted to be the catcher just like his daddy.
His first time in the cages he swung and missed. He swung again and missed. He swung again, and again, and again. Miss. Miss. Miss. He's in a league where a machine throws a high-school-sized-baseball 38 mph at his tiny seven-year old body. He struggled to track the ball. Something we feared might happen due to his recent diagnosis of dyslexia.
He left the cage, threw off his helmet, and sent his bat skating across the pavement. "I quit!” and he walked away from his team. This mom went into discipline mode. "We need to have a little chat..."I hauled him aside ready to tear into him so he would never break the code of good sportsmanship again. Then a little voice interrupted my thoughts, "What does a seven year old know of good sportsmanship?”
I pushed pause on my anger at his outburst. I looked him over and took in the sight of my son. Tears were streaming down his face. His dirty hands leaving black streaks where he kept swiping the tears away. His head was hung, shoulders slumped. He looked utterly defeated.
That voice continued: "His land is full of many giants." Tears swelled my eyes. His heart was breaking but it wasn't over baseball.
Earlier he'd had a rough day of reading tests at school. Landon's brain works differently than most kids. Learning to read is the hardest thing he has ever faced. The biggest obstacle he's ever had to conquer. The most failure he's ever had to overcome. A weight he carries everyday. Thankfully, we have an amazing team around him. But still, every day my little guy puts on a brave face goes to school, struggles to read instructions, struggles to do the work, struggles to pass the test. Sometimes reading just one sentence with five little words feels like a giant about to crush him. He’s learned humility this year. He's learned to be grateful, to celebrate the small accomplishments. He's learned what it feels like to fail.
But failure does not define us. Failure means we try again. And again. And again until we get it right. Baseball had just become another giant. A physical representation of the emotional upheaval he stares down every single day. I switched gears, "Landon do you know what it means to have good sportsmanship?”
"What's a sports Manship?”
I chuckled. "Landon, hitting a baseball might just be like reading for you. It might take you a hundred swings before your special big brain figures out how to hit it. But you WILL learn to hit the ball. You WILL learn to read. It's going to take you longer to do it than your team mates, than your classmates, but you WILL do them both!”
His eyes grew like saucers. "A 100 swings?” His face contemplative. “Mom, I don't know if I can do this.”
"Dad and I will be with you for every swing kiddo. This is what it means to be a good sportsman. You practice and practice and practice never giving up because you trust that one day you will hit the ball. One day you'll hit a home run. One day you will be a great baseball player but only if you don't give up. You have to learn. You have to keep trying."
He nodded slightly. The tears stopped flowing. He wiped his face with his sleeve. He gathered his gear to walk back to the cage. Then he turned and looked back at me, "100 swings?"
I nodded. “100 swings."
His eyes glinted off the sunlight. "I can do that."
For eight games in a row Landon walked up to home plate, dug his shoes into the dirt, swung, and missed. He'd walk to the dugout and take his seat without a word. Without tears. He'd cheer for his team and never once showed his frustration. On our fourth game he started asking me to pray with him before going out on deck. "Dear Jesus, please help me hit the ball, but if not, help me be a good sportsman." In the car he'd say, "I wish tonight had been the night I hit the ball. Maybe next time.”
On our ninth game, the team we played was the best in our league. Their team’s talent consisted mostly of last year’s all-star players, heavy hitters, experienced basemen…giants. The score was 0-15 we were not winning. Our team’s faces were downcast and our kids were struggling. Landon got up to bat. He swung. "Ta-tink" went the ball against the bat. It went straight down the third base line, "Fair ball" yelled the Ump. Landon stood and stared… he didn’t know what to do…
The bleachers erupted with parents, from both sides, roaring, “RUN!” Having seen Landon strike out repeatedly throughout the season, they couldn’t resist joining in. He made it to first base. Ump called time. His little body could not contain his joy as he danced on the bag. His team screamed from the dugout. His daddy ran to first base to high five. The air crackled with excitement. If Landon can do it… The next player got up, swung, and hit. Landon progressed to second. Another swing-and-a-hit. Landon progressed to third. Then the other team fumbled and Coach Dad screamed, "Go home Landon!" Landon took off. "Run hard! Run fast!” He shouted. I was running the fence line with my camera, "Run Landon RUNNNNN!!”
"Safe!" Yelled the umpire. Landon scored the first point of the night. We got two more points after that. His teammates high-five'd him and his coaches hugged him. I picked him up and layered kiss after kiss until he said, “ok, ok, ok enough mom!”
His team lost, not that they noticed. They were way too busy playing baseball to care. When it came time to give out the game ball to the MVP, his teammates stood behind and pointed to Landon. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that tonight the Coach's son deserved the ball. However, the game ball went to another player. One who had been injured, persevered, and deserved to be recognized too. Landon looked sad but stayed stoic. Coach’s face was a-grin. A worn, tattered ball, with faded initials, and ragged laces was twirling in his hand. Dad bellowed, “For his exceptional sportsmanship behavior.
For never giving up. For hitting his very first baseball: Landon, you get MY first game ball.”
Landon stared in awe. I leaned down and whispered in his ear, “You know kiddo, if your brain can learn to hit the ball what else can it learn to do?”
He whispered back with bright hopeful eyes, “It can learn to read.”
Two weeks later Landon made his first A on a reading test. Two down, 98 giants to go…
Originally posted to facebook.