46 degrees, a brisk wind, and mist that gradually turned to spits of light rain.
Nothing says love like parking your behind on metal bleachers in terrible weather to watch a bunch of teenaged girls play city league slow-pitch softball.
We’ve spent years watching these girls grow up on the softball field. Somewhere along the way they transformed from scrawny little gap-toothed waifs into beautiful young women with muscles, curves, and flashy smiles, the last part courtesy of the local orthodontists.
The Sparkette is among them. When we first began taking her to the softball fields, it was to watch her older sisters play. We dressed her in sneakers with light-up soles so that it would be easy to find her when she wandered off, playing with other softball-siblings. It worked. And now those softball siblings are all nearing the end of their own city league youth ball careers, their older sisters having aged out of the league long ago.
A few years back it became popular to throw around the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” Hilary Clinton picked it up and it suddenly became a political hot topic, complete with implication that the “village” is actually the government. I don’t buy that, but I do believe there is a lot of truth in that proverb.
I see it on the softball field. It takes coaches who are willing to love and encourage the girls, and yet turn around and chew them out when they aren’t showing up with the best versions of themselves. It takes team moms who hug and fuss and keep track of stray personal items and occasionally show up with cupcakes.
It takes teachers who really care about teaching and about kids.
It takes nosy neighbors who will tattle on shenanigans.
It takes pastors and spiritual leaders who are passionate about helping young minds and hearts understand eternal truths in the context of community.
It takes a village to produce a citizen who understands the privilege and responsibility of living in the village. It is how young people understand that their parents aren’t just making this stuff up. It really is rude to chew with your mouth open, or pick apples off a tree that doesn’t belong to you, or tease someone younger than you and hurt their feelings.
I’m grateful for the people who’ve spoken into the lives of our children and who’ve given our kids opportunities to have relationships with adults other than their parents. I haven’t agreed with all of them, but one of the things I’ve wanted my kids to know from a young age is that they have the freedom to consider viewpoints other than the ones their parents have chosen to adopt. The world is full of all kinds of people, and we all get to make choices about what kind of person we will be. Seems like a good choice to make on purpose, rather than one you just stumble into by default.
Three hours later, I’m still struggling to get warm after my evening of metal bleacher duty. I’m sure I’m not the only parent still shivering. But in spite of the miserable weather, there’s no where else I’d rather be. Those girls are strong and beautiful and hilarious, and this time of their life is flying by. There’s something sacred about watching each one step to the plate and decide to swing.
I hope every last one of them hits it out of the park.