“The big kid in town” by Saelen Ghose
Read in one of the many Gatehouse Newspapers.
There’s a kid in town. He’s big. Bigger than all the other kids. And better, at least at sports. And he’s everywhere. There he is, pitching in a baseball game, looking like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians, his stride so long it’s almost as if he’s handing the ball to the catcher instead of throwing it. And there he is again, in the gym, literally dunking as a sixth grader. Everywhere I go, he’s there. Swimming in record times, dodging linebackers, hitting topspin forehands for winners. The kid can do it all. But what makes him extra special is that he’s also one of the nicest kids in town.
In this day and age, when being mildly athletic seems to give some kids—and their parents—a free pass to act petulant and entitled, this kid is more than a breath of fresh air; he’s like a spring thunderstorm that cleanses and rejuvenates the world, allowing everything to reach its full brilliance. He certainly makes me want to be a better father.
How does he do it? First of all he’s humble, but not in a “I know I’m better than you, so I can be humble” kind of way. He actually is truly a modest kid. And he’s polite. Since I was his baseball coach I had a front row seat to all his exploits, which usually included a home run or two while he pitched a shut out. When the game was over, as the other kids would leave the field focused on their individual stats and happy to have gotten a few bloop hits, he would come over to me and say, “Thanks coach.” And give me a big smile with a mouth full of braces‚ braces that reminded me he was only twelve.
As the spring season plodded along I got to wondering about this kid. Who taught him how to behave like this? How did get to be so mature for his age? (And I’m not talking physically mature.) I’m going to give credit to his parents, although I’ve never actually met them. The few times I thought I saw them, they disappeared so quickly that I later wondered if it was only my imagination, like seeing a bobcat in the wild. One minute you swear it’s there and a moment later all you see is a few low-cut branches blowing in the warm summer air.
Whoever his parents are I think they’ve got the blueprint on how to raise a kid the “right” way. Enough so that, I think they should write a manual with chapters entitled: Hubris vs. Humility; Polite Isn’t Only for Pushovers; The Tao of manners; and so on. Sure, maybe it’s easier to instill these positive qualities when your kid is naturally gifted at so many things; and I understand that if you don’t have to spend your time teaching your kids the basics, maybe it’s easy to teach them all the other things they need to know about life. But maybe not. He could easily have gone the other way, and turned into one of those boys you hope your daughter never meets, and even more, hope she doesn’t fall for.
For me, he’s an accessible role model for my kids. And I love him for that. My kids are getting close to that age where all of a sudden I actually can do some wrong—a lot of the time. So instead of me lecturing them about something that they’ll just roll their eyes at, I say, “Look at (his name). He’s the best player in the league, but he supports his teammates, picks up the equipment, thanks his coaches, and always has something positive to say.” And this goes such a long way with my kids. A lot further than me saying, “When I was your age, this is how we did things.”
So my column this month is my way of saying thanks to this kid’s parents, since I don’t often roam the forests and may never get a glimpse of their hideout. But from the bottom of my heart, here’s a big thank you for providing me with a role model for my kids. Someone I can reference at a moment’s notice for almost everything they care about. What a gift!
All I can hope is that wherever they are, they get this paper delivered.