Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Conspiracy of Kindness

Kevin is a boy who might be described as "slow." He didn't learn his ABCs as fast as other kids. He couldn’t compete in schoolyard races. But Kevin had a way with people. His bright smile and big heart won him plenty of friends.

My friend Randy, the pastor at Kevin’s church, decided they needed a basketball team for boys. Kevin signed on and soon basketball became a center of his life. He practiced hard. While the other boys worked at dribbling the basketball and shooting lay-ups, skills Kevin would never master, he simply shot baskets. Or more correctly, he threw the ball AT the basket. He had a special spot near the free throw line. He threw and threw, and it occasionally went in. On the rare times that he succeeded, Kevin raised his arms and shouted, "Look at me, Coach! Look at me!" Randy looked at him. And smiled.

The day before their first game, Coach Randy gave each player a bright red jersey. Kevin was number 12. He scrambled himself into the sleeves and wore that jersey almost every day. Everywhere. One Sunday morning the church worship service was interrupted by Kevin's excited voice. "Look, Coach!" He lifted his gray wool sweater to reveal the red jersey underneath with number 12 on the front. Nobody there minded the interruption; the congregation knew Kevin and loved him.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the team did well. But the truth is…they never won a game that season -- except for the night it snowed and the opposing team never showed up.

At the end of the season, the boys played in the church league's tournament. As the last-place team, they drew the unfortunate spot of playing against the best team -- boys who had never lost a game all year.

Game day arrived. Both teams played their best, but the game went as expected. Near the end of the last quarter, Kevin's team stood nearly 30 points behind. It was then that one of the boys called timeout. "Coach Randy," he said, "this is our last game and Kevin has never made a basket. I think we should let him make a basket."

The team agreed. Kevin was instructed to stand at his special place near the free throw line and wait. He was told that when he was given the ball, he should shoot.

Kevin was ecstatic. He ran to the floor and waited. When the ball was passed to him he shot -- and missed. Number 17 from the other team snatched the rebound, dribbled down the court for an easy basket. But a moment later Kevin got the ball again. He shot -- and missed again. Number 17 repeated his performance scoring two more points. Kevin shot a third and fourth time with the same result.

But slowly the other team seemed to figure out what was going on and the next time they snatched the rebound, a boy threw it to Kevin! He shot...and missed. Now every rebound came to him and he threw and threw toward the basket. Time was running down and Kevin still had not scored.

BOTH teams circled the boy by this time and all of the players were shouting, "Kevin! Kevin!" The crowd took up the chant. Soon everyone in the gym was shouting Kevin’s name.

Coach Randy was sure that time must have run out; the game HAD to be over. He glanced at the official clock. It was stopped at 4.3 seconds. Even the timekeepers joined in the mania and stood by their table shouting with the crowd, "Kevin! Kevin!"

Kevin shot and shot. Everyone was screaming. He attempted again and again and again and…miraculously, one of his shots took a crazy bounce on the rim. Everyone held their breath.

The ball dropped in.

Chaos reigned. Nobody remained seated. Everyone stood and cheered as if one boy had single-handedly won a world championship. Kevin's arms sprang up in the air and he shouted, "I won! I won!" He had scored. His team escorted him off the court, the clock ticked down and the game was over.

That day an undefeated team retained their perfect record. But everybody won. Everybody. Because everybody had participated in a crazy conspiracy of kindness that was so compelling, so powerful, the earth itself might have stopped for a moment to rejoice with one young boy.

How beautiful it is when we all conspire together in kindness. Everybody wins.

-- Steve Goodier

Image: Squires


Anonymous said...

As the tears roll down my cheeks, I thank you Steve for this inspiring story. I am grateful!

Yvonne said...

Yes indeed, a tear jerker. So very powerful. Thank you Steve!

Unknown said...

This really made me stop to think. Power article.

Steve Goodier said...

Glad you all liked it. You'd like my friend Randy, too.