Marian Wright EdelmanOpinion

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN: Lessons Children Teach Adults

A number of years ago, I heard a deeply moving story at a Children’s Miracle Network event, a charity that raises money in partnership with children’s hospitals around the country and helps serve sick and injured children in their local communities. A speaker shared this heart-wrenching story of a father and son with the audience and agreed to let me share it with others after I requested a copy.

According to the speaker, the father began his story with a question: “Everything God does is done to perfection. Yet, my son Scott cannot learn things the way other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is God’s plan reflected in my son?”

He continued, “I believe that when God brings a child like Scott into the world, an opportunity to realize the divine plan presents itself. And it comes in the way people treat that child.” He then shared this experience:

“Scott and I were walking past a park where some boys were playing baseball and Scott asked, ‘Do you think they will let me play?’ I knew most boys would not want Scott on their team. But I understood that if he was allowed to play it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging.

“I approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Scott could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, the boy said, ‘We are losing by six runs, and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.’

“In the bottom of the eighth inning, Scott’s team scored a few runs but was still behind three. At the top of the ninth inning, Scott put on a glove and played outfield. Although no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

“In the bottom of the ninth inning, Scott’s team scored again. With two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base. Scott was scheduled to be next at bat. Would the team actually let Scott bat, and give away their chance to win the game?

“Scott was given the bat. Everyone knew a hit was all but impossible because Scott didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less hit the ball. Scott stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball softly so Scott could have a chance to make contact. The first pitch came and Scott swung clumsily and missed.

“The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Scott. As the pitch came in, Scott swung at the ball and 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 to end the game.

“Instead the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, ‘Scott, run to first. Run to first.’ Never in his life had Scott ever made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

“Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second. Run to second!’ The right fielder had the ball and easily could have thrown the ball to second base for a tag. But he understood the pitcher’s intention, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head. Scott ran towards second base and the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home.

“As Scott reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third!’ As Scott rounded third, the boys from both teams were screaming, ‘Scott! Run home!’

“Scott ran home, stepped on home plate and was cheered as the hero, for hitting a ‘grand slam’ and winning the game for his team.

“That day,” said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, “the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of the divine plan into the world.”

If the actions of the boys on both teams were part of God’s divine plan for the world, as Scott’s father and I believe, we should all follow their example in high places and low places — honoring the sanctity of every child and human person. Not only must every adult respect the dignity of every human person regardless of disability, race, gender, income or religion, they must teach children by their example whether presidents or preachers or parents or teachers that every human being is of equal value.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The Children's Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. Mrs. Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College which she chaired from 1976 to 1987 and was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation on which she served from 1971 to 1977. She has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; Stand for Children; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind; I'm Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.

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