LLWS

In the midst of this summer’s oppressive heat dome and dangerous heat waves we have felt blanketed and smothered by bad news and disturbing images. We’ve been thirsty for some good news, parched for something uplifting.

Perhaps that’s the reason a scene of uncommon sportsmanship captured on video (click here to view) during a Little League baseball game last week collected millions of views around the world almost instantly, prompting every major media source in the country to scramble for exclusive interviews with the two boys.

Four Minutes That Stopped Our Clocks

Kaiden Shelton’s fastball sailed high and inside, hitting Isaiah Jarvis on the left side of his helmet, knocking it off, and dropping him to the ground where he clutched his head. After a collective gasp in the stadium, the stands and both dugouts went quiet as coaches and trainers rushed to the plate. Kaiden was visibly shaken at the thought that he might have seriously injured Isaiah.  Everyone was relieved when Isaiah not only got to his feet but insisted that he was well enough to stay in the game. He put his helmet back on and walked to first base.

But it’s what Isaiah Jarvis did next that captured the nation's attention and tugged on our hearts. On the mound, about to face the next batter with a runner on first base, Kaiden was still shaken up, his cap pulled down low, his head bowed, his moist eyes closed. That’s why he didn’t see Isaiah dropping his helmet and walking toward him on the mound. In fact, Kaiden didn’t know Isaiah was there until he felt the boy’s arms around him, embracing him in a hug, and telling him that he was okay. That’s the moment when you’re watching the clip that you feel your eyes well up.

Sportsmanship and Grace

We are encouraged and inspired by displays of sportsmanship, but we are deeply moved by observing grace. Sportsmanship is helping your opponent up off the field after your legs get tangled and you both fall. Mercy is being hit with an errant ball and not retaliating. Grace goes a step further than sportsmanship and mercy. Grace is embracing and giving comfort to your opponent who hit you in the head with a baseball and almost gave you a concussion.

Grace is stunning when we observe it (or receive it) because it is so unexpected; and it is unexpected because it is undeserved. If you ever think you deserve or are entitled to grace, then you don’t understand it.  “Deserving grace” is an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, and Plymouth Reliant. One of the most memorable examples of undeserved grace is displayed in this gripping scene from Les Miserables

I imagine Kaiden Shelton felt at least a fraction of what Jean Valjean felt—simultaneously stunned by and grateful for grace. And as was Valjean’s experience, we often encounter God’s grace through the grace offered to us by a person we have wounded. In the one of interviews last week, Isaiah Jarvis explained that part of his reasoning for approaching and embracing Kaiden on the mound was “to show him God’s love.”

Grace and Marriage

As a marriage therapist, it is often my tendency to view and relate observations and experiences to our closest relationships, particularly marriage. I’m going to be showing a 1-minute video clip from a Little League baseball game to couples in my office for years to come. Because unfortunately, it is usually in our closest relationships where we hurt others the most. Without our acknowledgement of and apology for inflicted pain (intentional or unintentional), we are frankly not a safe person to be in relationship with. And without the offering and receiving of forgiveness and grace, we cannot repair and heal our relationships.

There are few things more difficult, few movements that swim against the strong tide of our human nature more than extending grace to someone who has hurt us. And there are few gifts more precious than grace, and few experiences more humbling than being its recipient.

Thank you to two young Little Leaguers for reminding us of that.

Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage & family therapist in Franklin,  (www.ramonpressontherapy.com)  the author of multiple books, and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He can be reached at [email protected].