There's a strong possibility he will not die.
That sickening crunch of an object smashing into somebody’s face. Horrible. Horrible when it’s anyone. Horrible in a particularly horrible way when the face belongs to your eight-year old son on a schoolyard playground and ends up as the accidental stopping surface for a basketball traveling at 760 miles per hour.
The tears came slowly, along with the inevitable agony of of pain receptors rigidly doing their duty, as he buried his head in my shoulder and tried to hold back tears.
Let ‘em come, buddy, I said. It’s okay.
A small crowd watched as his long blond locks cascaded down and his chest heaved and he thrust himself against me, chest to chest and tried to be brave. Didn’t try. Was.
Accidents happen, and it wasn’t kids being bad or even careless. Just one of those things. But it doesn’t make the pain any less.
I took him to the nurses office for some ice. Anything head-related, we’ve gotta keep him in here ten to fifteen minutes just to make sure he hasn’t had a concussion or anything, she explained.
I sat with him and his classmate - also hit by the same basketball - for a few minutes, and then told him I’d be back while I picked up his backpack and lunch bag from the playground.
This is the real reason I’m writing this. What’s coming next.
Let this be the future.
I walked toward the spot where he had been eating. There were three girls standing around, and I realised as I drew closer that they weren’t aimlessly milling around. They were standing with purpose. For what purpose? I was soon to find out.
The brunette and self-appointed leader finished picking up and zipping a backpack and lunch bag, holding them out as I got closer.
“We wanted to make sure he didn’t leave his things out here,” she explained, handing them to me.
“Thank you,” I said.
“How is Johannes doing? she asked, ringed by her two friends.
“I think he’s gonna pull through,” I said.
“Good,” she said, and was joined by nods and grunts of assent from the other girls. She paused and looked up at me. “Will you tell him something for us?”
“Sure,” I said. “What do you want me to pass along?”
“Will you tell him,” she asked.”That we hope he feels better?”
“Absolutely.” I said.
And I did.
Not so little
A tiny, tiny gesture of humanity and compassion that brought so much happiness to my heart.
These were not close friends of his.
These were not soulmates.
These were not family.
These were three girls, three classmates, who saw someone - their friend - get hurt.
And instead of taking the perfectly reasonable course of action; a course for which no one would have faulted them for, and instead of running off to play and enjoy the rest of their lunch and play time…
…they took a few minutes out of their lives to do something simultaneously trivial and spectacular.
They acted compassionately.
They stole a few grains of sand from the ever-moving finite hourglass each of us has, and they used it on him. My son.
Am I overthinking? Of course I am. What were all the thoughts racing through their head? Probably considerably less than the ones running through my mind right now. And that’s the beautiful thing:
They weren’t overthinking it. They just did it. A small and kind little act. They might forget. Even our son might forget. I hope he doesn’t. But he may.
But I won’t.
I want our children to be those people. Those kids, the ones who without overthinking or overanalyzing, simply do something beautiful and compassionate for someone. A small action, a small sentence, a short question, a handful of moments…
…and go out of their way to…
…look out for someone to whom they’re not even closely allied, affiliated, or connected with.
Just to do a beautiful and tiny little thing in the moment because it feels like the right thing to do for someone.
I remember these things.
“It is more important to me, to us,”
I told our kids later when we were talking about it.
“…that you develop an embedded sense of compassion like these girls showed today, than you scoring super high on any big state test. Like the ones you just finished up last week.”
“Of course,” I continued, “we’d like for you to develop both a strong sense of compassion and kindness and strong academic fundamentals. But make no mistake: one is more important than the other.”
And that is true.
But I’ll take both.