The greatest thing about children is the excitement they exhibit for new things they are experiencing for the first time. Whether it is a trip to the zoo, or experiencing the waves crashing off the coast of North Carolina I can remember those adventures and when we see young kids’ excitement it has to help keep us all young. I can remember a time when my excitement for an activity would transcend me for the rest of my life.
In 1980 my father changed jobs and we moved to Livingston, Alabama. While living there I know my mom missed our family in North Carolina, and we missed out on growing up with our relatives. Looking back on this move I believe it was best thing for me because the small town we lived in was perfect for me to fit in and excel. When we moved there my mom would take my brother and I to the Western Auto in town. On one particular day on a trip to the store my mom took us to the store next door. I cannot remember the man behind the counter's name, but he made me the happiest kid when he handed me a hat and a jersey emblazoned with my name on the back. My mom had signed me up for Tee Ball, and this moment would begin a chapter of my life where sports would become the great equalizer for me.
No kid wants to be any different than the others unless it is a conscience choice. For example, my 10 year stepdaughter may choose to wear something that I think is totally off the wall and straight out of Lady Gaga's closet, but that is normal for her age. Choosing how you appear different and having no choice are clearly two different paradoxes in life. As a four year old I sort of knew there was a difference between myself and my peers, but I just assumed every kid visited hospitals and doctors in between cartoons and hide-and-go seek. Tee ball was my first eye opening experience where I could see a difference and had to make a choice. Lucky for me at the age of four it did not matter if my bat was smaller, or that I fielded ground balls differently than my teammates. The only thing that mattered was I was wearing a uniform and playing baseball, the game I loved. Even though I was only four my father and mother had prepared me well for this moment. I am sure the coaches first thought when they saw me was- what are we going to do with this kid? After showing them I could throw, catch, and hit just like the rest of the boys I am positive their attitude changed toward this new boy. Now I do not want to paint the picture that I was a little slugger because that is far from the truth. Unfortunately, as good as my hand-eye coordination was for making contact with a baseball the power to hit a baseball far never developed.
Anytime a new kid shows up it can be difficult for them to break through and make friends. Add to that a kid who appears different than them and that can be an even greater barrier. Throughout my life I have had to prove to others that although I was born with what many would call a "disability" that I could function and even flourish in this world. As an adult, outside of the people who know me, I am constantly having others try to do things for me, from opening doors to carrying my groceries.
Growing up my classmates at Sumter Academy were great and I am blessed to have been part of a small group of people that knew what kind of person I was and were open to what I could do. These were the kids I competed with and hung out with for most of my childhood. There are times when my family thinks about what our life would have been like had we never left our family here in North Carolina. As I have grown older I see that having grown up in a small town and attending a small school was the perfect environment for me to achieve.
This has been the second edition of "The Great Equalizer". In the next edition, I will discuss Little League Baseball, and how a junior set of Northwestern Golf Clubs changed my path in life.
The Great Equalizer: Part I
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