It was my son Hunter’s first soccer game of the season. And like most youth soccer games, the five-year-old boys, with shirts down to their knees, looked like a swarm of bees, oblivious to the coach’s instructions to “spread out.” Still, they managed to get the ball up and down the field, and all but a few ‘intense’ parents had a great Saturday morning.
One day, the coach put Hunter in as the goalie. Inexperienced at the position, he was eager to put on the special goalie outfit (complete with a brightly colored shirt and gloves). Soon he was standing there in all of his splendor. When the first ball went past him, I didn’t think much about it. After all, I’ve seen professionals miss a ball or two. After the 6th ball hit the net behind him, I began to get worried.
When the opposing team’s score hit the two-figure mark, I began to sweat. The competitive parents began whispering things and I knew that my son would soon get a nickname like “Colander” for his ability to let things go through him.
By the game’s end he had saved two goals, but frankly I can’t remember the number of goals the other team scored (let’s just say their total was more like an NBA basketball score, while ours was in the single digits). I was sure it was going to be a long ride home.
As we got in the car, I knew my son must have been feeling awful– a good dose of shame just slammed into him, directly in front of a crowd. In my sensitive fatherly voice, I said, “So pal, how are you feeling?”
“Great!” he said with enthusiasm. “Can you believe it? I stopped two goals!”
The smile that came over my face almost broke my jaw.
“Yes you did son!” I said with a loud, laughing voice. “Yes you did!” And then we high-fived and went to Sonic for a milkshake, as winners do.
In one of our recent dinner conversations, I retold that story. My wife and sons laughed and laughed, remembering even more stories of the times we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Later that night, I realized something. If we are truthful, life sends a lot of soccer balls our way. They often fly past us as if David Beckham kicked them, soaring through the air with an impossible bend. Some of them come straight at us and go through our legs. Others catch the top corner of the net causing the other team to scream with delight. There are a lot of misses out there.
But every now and then, we see the ball coming and we’re at the right place at the right time and we stop that sucker. We thrust our arms upwards, hitting the air with our fist as we yell, “I stopped a goal!”
Maybe we need to give one another (and ourselves) a little break. With so much pressure for success, what if we celebrated the small, day to day wins instead of waiting for the BIG ones that are elusive at best?
“I stayed sober for one more day!” Yes you did!
“I did one selfless thing today.” Yes you did!
“I made it through the day without cynicism.” Yes you did!
“I wrote one page in my novel.” Yes you did!
“I exercised for fifteen minutes.” Yes you did!
My friends, we muff it up a lot. We miss so many things, goof up more than not, and often do harm to others. But almost every day we do at least one thing well, yeah, maybe even two. We’re kind to a stranger, give up our seat on the train, or give the weary waiter a big tip.
I think it’s about time we give those moments some good press. Next time something like that happens, let me know. The milkshake is on me.