Rabbi Paysach Krohn, a popular lecturer and best-selling author of the ArtScroll Maggid series of short stories, tells this story about a boy named Shay.
At a fundraising dinner for an American school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by any who attended.
The father stated, “I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally disabled, comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.” Then he began his story.
Shay and his father walked past a park where some boys that Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” Shay’s father knew the boys probably would not want Shay to play on their team, but he also knew if they did, it would give his son a sense of belonging and confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his disability.
Shay’s father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy look around for guidance and said,”We’re 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 in to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shay struggled over to the teams’ bench and put on a team shirt with a broad smile. His father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw how happy the father was to see his son accepted by his peers. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs, but was still behind by three.
In the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear. In the bottom of the ninth, Shay’s team scored again. Now, with two outs and bases loaded, Shay was up to bat. At this juncture, his father expected them to let someone else bat. Surprisingly, the coach gave Shay the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible, because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher recognized that the other team had put winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life. He moved in a few steps and lobbed the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman and the game would have been over. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone in the stands and both teams started yelling, “Shay, run to first!” Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
“Run to second,” everyone screamed. Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second base. By the time Shay approached second base, the right fielder had the ball. He was the smallest guy on the team and he had the chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions and he, too, intentionally threw the ball high over the head of the third-baseman. Shay ran deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, “Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay!” Everyone was on their feet as Shay ran to home and cheered the hero who hit the grand slam and won 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 true love and humanity into this world. Shay didn’t make it to another summer and died that winter, but he never forgot how it felt to be the hero of that game and how happy it made his father.
Rabbi Paysach Krohn (left) posing with a fan after speaking in Passaic, New Jersey, December, 2007.
I absolutely loved this story when I read it. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we would all treat each other as the boys treated Shay? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we would all make it a point to bring love and humanity into the world we live in? As we go about our lives today, I pray that we’ll recognize the “Shays” that cross our paths and take that opportunity to do the right thing and bring a little humanity into the world.