The following touching story has been circulating on the Internet. A commentary by Doug Fuda follows where he relates the story to the culture war taking place in our society. ED.
In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional schools. At a Chush fundraising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.
After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection?"
The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is in the way people react to this child.
He then told the following story about his son Shaya:
One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Shaya’s father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs in the seventh inning." Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up.
Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance at winning the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact.
The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's team mates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game.
Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first. Run to first." Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran toward second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shaya run home." Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.
"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."
About Shaya’s Story
There are a lot of touching elements contained in that simple story. It's about fathers and sons and education and faith and kids and baseball. But I think its greatest appeal is that it is about something that is at the core of our humanity—our attitude toward weakness and imperfection and our willingness to conceal our own strength in order to accommodate the needs and feelings of others. It is about modesty and compassion in the everyday lives of people. It is an aspect of our lives that is worth defending.
And defend it we must because it is remarkable to me that these sentiments can exist at all given the powerful messages we receive constantly from capitalist sources that go just the opposite of this story. When I was looking for a job I used to notice a certain type of want ad that I found particularly obnoxious. I found the two examples below in about five minutes of searching through last Sunday's paper.
Help Wanted Ad #1
Photo: a sleek, spotted leopard, poised to strike, stares intently at some distant prey.
"Natural law of selection: Only the strong survive."
"How far can you go? It takes more than raw nerve—it takes drive, creativity and energy"
"We want to share our view from the top."
"If you're the kind of person who has an innate drive to achieve—"
"Everything you need to make your mark you'll find right here in our beautiful, tech-savvy facilities."
Don't worry though because they are "a company committed to advancing cultural diversity."
Help Wanted Ad #2
Photo: a brilliant looking 30ish guy standing in front of a blackboard covered with complex mathematical equations. His index finger touches his cranium indicating intense intellectual activity.
"Brilliance—we count on it and so do our customers."
"Some Internet problems are simply beyond the comprehension of mortal minds."
"A passion for creativity and an insatiable desire for innovation..."
"And the results are impressive: brutally intelligent, cutting edge solutions to otherwise insurmountable Internet problems."
"...we're only asking for the resumes of the very best. If your head contains anything less than 'Grade A' gray matter, save the postage. We value genius, pure and simple."
"Ready to dazzle us with your brilliance? ... tell us why you've got what it takes."
Their motto: "No Passion. No Job."
Sounds like a great place to work!
Or take television advertising, particularly sports-related commercials. We are assaulted with "win at any cost" messages that emphasize extraordinary physical prowess and athletic perfection. Perfect athletes with perfect bodies dripping blue blood and sweat and drinking Gatorade or wearing Nikes. Amoral personal achievement and fixation with self-improvement are all that matters. Capitalism is truly trying to create an "age of narcissism" for our children to inherit.
There's not much room for imperfection or weakness there, or love and compassion or family for that matter—no room for the important things.
In spite of what human resource directors tell us, the world doesn't need more technically skilled people and geniuses to solve our problems. We don't need more sports superstars or Hollywood sex symbols. We need the millions of people who care about others and can recognize this gross selfishness and self-obsession which is being promoted to step forward and say this is sick and it has to stop.
The media and politicians do a lot of hand wringing about the lack of morality among kids but the fault is not with the kids. It's with adults who promote a morality based on the laws of the jungle and on personal aggrandizement.
Tom Laney (an auto worker and an editor of New Democracy) sent me a message about reaction to the story at his plant:
"The story was told by two of us in our shag yesterday morning. Everyone thought it was pretty good so now we're sending it to the shock radio station most guys listen to at Ford every morning. Then we passed around the written version (which was quite a bit better than the telling) and it was a big hit..."
In a way that’s what it’s all about: "shock jocks" vs. Shaya's story. Part of our job is to fight a culture war for the hearts and minds of people. We need to define and defend and promote in an organized way the morality of ordinary people.
What a great way to start a New Democracy chapter. You don't have to take on high stakes testing or the Ford/UAW "management team." Get together with a couple friends and write a letter to the paper against shock jocks, the poster boys for capitalist morality.
Originally published in New Democracy Newsletter, July-August 2000.