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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Never

All my life, people have advised me “never say never.”

However, I know of a situation where the word “never” is never wrong: we never regret a kindness.

My late beloved companion, Frank, who was the epitome of kindness, once told me of an experience that clearly illustrates this fact.

When Frank was a teenager, he coached Little League. Frank loved children and was also extremely fond of sports, especially baseball. Working with youngsters within the world of baseball was therefore, as Frank put it, a “win-win” for him.

The little boys on Frank’s team admired their coach. Understandably so, for Frank was lots of fun. For example, as a faux exercise in balance and reflexes, he would have them spin around and around their bats and then quickly run to first base. The boys, delightfully giddy from this revolving action, would dissolve in dizziness and laughter.

Frank was also scrupulously fair in his dealings with the boys. He made it clear that the game was serious business and had rules that must be followed. Further, team members were expected to give their all; no half measures on the baseball field. “We play to win,” Frank would say. Accordingly, the boys rose to the occasion. In fact, they seemed to revel in the discipline and sustained effort Frank required of them. Little League became a popular and well-attended event in Frank’s neighborhood.

After practice, the boys would routinely bicycle over to Frank’s house, to spend even more time with their beloved coach. They’d hang out on the sidewalk and front yard, joke, laugh, and talk. They’d even ask for Frank’s advice on things that were worrying them. Frank would patiently listen to their tales and offer guidance where he could. Through his devoted interaction with the boys, he not only presented the rules of baseball but also lessons for life.

Living a few doors down from Frank was a little girl who had Down’s syndrome. Frank said she was a sweet child who longed to play with the other neighborhood children but sadly, because of her handicap, the kids excluded her. If she would ride her bike over to Frank’s when the baseball team members were visiting, the youngsters, evidently uncomfortable by her presence, would be up and away in no time, leaving the poor little girl behind and alone.

Tenderhearted Frank understood the situation. He took time to greet the child and make her feel comfortable, sitting down in the driveway and talking with her. Naturally, the little girl thought the world of Frank. As it turned out, whenever the boys were at Frank’s for a visit, she learned to watch and wait from her window. Just as soon as the boys would leave, she would hop on her bike and, with a big smile on her face, pedal over to see her good friend Frank.

I’m speculating that Frank, in his adult years, would have used this situation as a teachable moment for the boys, explaining to them about the differences in people and the need for tolerance and compassion. Even so, as it was, he acted with extraordinary empathy given that he, himself, was just a teenager, showing kindness to a little girl who had been ostracized.

Ultimately, Frank moved out of the area but, many years later, he returned to the old neighborhood. On a whim, he stopped by the little girl’s house. He was greeted at the door by her mother who, with tears in her eyes, informed Frank that her daughter had passed away. Then, the child’s mother reached out her arms and gave Frank a big hug, telling him that her daughter had always loved Frank. And she added that the little girl had never forgotten him or his kindness.

Never say never? I beg to differ. We never regret a kindness.

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