The other day I saw a father in the park. He had his wife and young daughter with him, as well as his even younger son.
The little girl had a metal bat, and was swinging at a ball every time her dad pitched it to her. She missed every time.
The little boy had a bat too. His was made of foam. At the moment I walked by, the little boy was using his bat to beat the devil out of the bleachers.
The father’s eyes met mine as I passed, and I knew from the look he gave me what must have been running through his mind. No, I can’t read minds. But I knew that look and have had the same type of thoughts behind that type of look:
“Oh great, there’s another man. He’s exercising. I could be out exercising right now. In fact I probably should be. Or I could be working to make some extra money. Or catching up on my show. This is sort of embarrassing. And silly. I mean, my daughter can’t hit a ball, my son doesn’t care to, and I’m out here trying to coach her like this sports thing is going to amount to something. I could be doing something better.”
They’re the same type of thoughts a dad has when he is playing with blocks, or having a tea party, or using sidewalk chalk. It all seems so silly, and trivial, and unimportant.
As I walked by the ‘failure’ of a softball practice, I thought about how that little girl might one day grow old. Sitting next to her dying husband, she might think she could be doing something far better. Changing diapers for a grown man and administering medications on time and shifting pillows around is meaningless and silly. Perhaps those thoughts would cross the girl’s mind. And then, perhaps, she would remember one beautiful spring day when her dad, who had a thousand important things he could have been doing, chose instead to spend time with his daughter, teaching her how to swing a bat.
Yes dad, you’re doing it right. So when you see me walking by and meet my eye, smile and throw that ball again, because it is, for you, the most important thing in the world you could be doing at that moment.