In the middle of the winter, we needed to get our boy running around. So, we signed him up for Soccer Shots at a church around the bend. It was a wonderful experience and exactly what he needed: an honest and helpful coach, lots of exercise, and a first-time exposure to playing on a team. The first day, I felt like weeping for the entire hour: Malachi is a sporty little guy and he was in his element. During the scrimmage, he ran ahead of the ball to defend his team’s goal. He was in that goal when the opposing team came up for the shot. And he deflected it. After he did this a couple of times, the coach said, “You’re a good defender, Malachi!” My mother’s heart welled up with emotion as I longed for that statement to be true of him… not simply on the soccer field but in life. I even wrote the quote on big sheet of white butcher paper and hung it in Malachi’s room. I added Proverbs 31:8-9 and we often read it together in the morning.
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
In my opinion, this was a defining and shining moment for our son.
Throughout the 2-month season, I noticed that some of the children were more inclined to athletics than others: some were strong, fast, and coordinated, while others simply were not. One little boy, in particular, seemed to have no interest in soccer at all. He was often day-dreaming or pretending he was a superhero. His father would yell guidance from the sidelines, “Get the ball, Stevie!” “Kick the ball, Stevie!” “Pay attention, Stevie!”
I could tell his dad wanted his son to excel in soccer, but things were not going his way.
On the final day of lessons, one of the more athletic boys accidentally knocked over his own younger brother in pursuit of a goal. The younger brother – maybe 3 years old – fell over in a precarious way and seriously injured himself. The coach and the father immediately ran to the rescue and decided that he should be brought to the hospital asap. The atmosphere was tense as the father picked his tender 3-year-old up and walked him to the door. The rest of us sat for several minutes in stunned silence – the kids seemed frozen in place on the field – as the father and the coach worked things out and made plans to get the older brother home safely.
While all of that was going on, I noticed that the day-dreaming superhero came over and placed a strong hand on the older brother’s shoulder. He looked him in the eye to make sure he was alright and he stood by his side until the father left, the coach returned, and the tension dissipated. He was just four years old, and yet he showed stunning maturity: he recognized that the older brother was feeling guilty, lonely, and confused and he immediately come to his rescue with a strong arm of friendship and support. No one had to yell instructions from the sidelines, “Comfort him, Stevie!” He just knew what to do, when to do it. I’m telling you, it was a magnificent sight. I don’t think he ever got a goal… all season long. I don’t even know if he kicked the ball in a scrimmage! But, suddenly he was the most valuable player on the team.
I wish I would have had the whereabouts to say, “You’re a good comforter, Stevie!”