I was driving home from work a couple of weeks ago when I stopped for a lengthy traffic light. It was one of the odd, tropical 80+ degree days we’ve had this spring, so the windows were down and neighborhoods buzzed with activity. I sat across from a driveway where there was a boy and girl playing basketball. I assume that they were brother and sister, maybe 9 and 10 years old or so. It was a small driveway on a slant to the road. The boy was playfully talking smack to his sister, who had the ball: “What’s the matter, you scared of me”, “You’re not getting past me, girl”, “Let’s see what you got.”
The girl tried to dribble around him and he poked the ball away, which rolled dangerously close to the street – the girl chasing after it. She gathered up the ball and put it back in play with the word anyone who has ever played backyard basketball knows, “Check!” She bounced it to the boy, who bounced it back to her, and the game (and smack-talking) was back on. The girl tried a different tactic this time. She turned her back to the boy and started backing in, dribbling carefully out of his reach. She tried to turn first to the left, then to the right, but the boy was faster than she was, not letting her turn far enough to face forward.
This girl was smart, though. She took a quick backward step causing the boy to react quickly backwards. While he was still off-balance she turned and shot in one quick movement. It was a high, arcing shot – mostly of desperation. Both of their heads turned, following the path of the ball to see the result. I leaned over towards the passenger seat so I could see it, too. This was her big chance to shut her brother up with one clean swoosh of the net. The shot fell short and went bouncing around inside the garage.
Only then did I notice that there was no rim on the garage. There was no backboard, nothing. Just a garage. And they could have cared less. Their enjoyment of the game wasn’t dependent on having a backboard and rim. They simply enjoyed playing the game and made do with what they had. The boy ran to get the ball as it caromed back out of the garage, down the sloped driveway, and towards the street again. “Check.” It was his turn now, and he was going to how his sister how to play the game.
I was deeply moved by all this. My first thought was to wish I had enough money to buy these kids a backboard, rim, and portable fence to keep the ball from going into the street. Shouldn’t they have one? I could buy it and send it anonymously. But of course, I don’t really have the money, and who knows if they even lived there? I just sort of carried this story around with me since, thinking about it now and then.
The past few days, I have been griping about not being able to attend the 2012 National Genealogical Society conference being held in Cincinnati. I initially planned to go, but could not afford to go to both NGS and GRIP later this summer. The deal was sealed when the day job said no more time off for this school year. So I was salty. All my genea-friends are going, there are some terrific speakers and programs, and here I am stuck in Cleveland. Why don’t I have all the money I want to go to all these events like all the other kids do? Why do I have to work instead of travelling to these things? Why, why, why?
And then I remembered the basketball story, and it helped me to realize that focusing on what I don’t have, can’t do, dislike…is such a huge waste of time and energy. I’m choosing to focus on positive things – like the fact that I will get to go to GRIP this summer for a week-long intense learning and networking experience. Sure, it would be great to do both, but shouldn’t enjoy whatever it is I am able to do rather than fret about those things I can’t? This is what I learned from those children.
So this week, I’m off to do what I love. I have some client research to finish up and a report to write (okay, so maybe I don’t love the report part quite as much). I have an article to write – for an actual magazine! I have two lectures I need to begin developing, and also a few other things going on genealogically this week. I’m gonna smile, trash-talk, and appreciate the fact that I get to do these things, even if only part-time for now.