Jesse came up to me at school today and said, "Mom, I need to talk to you. There's a problem. I put my ball with our class's stuff when I went to chapel, and when I came back it was gone." And he started crying.
This is not just any ball. He brings it to school every day and about 20 kids play with it every morning and every recess. He brings it with him when we go to pick up his brother from practice so he can kick it against the wall. He tries to kick it around the house until we tell him to take it outside. It's almost like his pet.
Jesse and Micah have been through any number of soccer balls here. We have spiky plants here in the DR that puncture balls the day we buy them. It just takes one misdirected kick.
But this particular ball kept its shape and bounciness after being punctured. And because it is so beat up, it is the perfect ball to bring to school. We thought it wouldn't be a big deal if something happened to it since it is virtually worthless. But I underestimated the sentimental value of the ball and the fact that this ugly little beat-up ball is the only one we've had that just won't die as a result of thorns. It also solved the sad scenario Jesse was facing each day on the playground.
Earlier in the year, my determined first-grade son approached the soccer games of the older elementary students (big 3rd and 4th graders, mostly) each recess wanting to play. And although his older brother didn't mind him playing, and although, frankly, he's really good at soccer such that Micah's coach wants him to play on the older team, a few of the older kids would shout at him or taunt him until he stopped trying to join the game. When he or Micah would tell them to let him play, they'd say, "It's my ball."
Not knowing how to resolve the situation and not wanting to get too involved if I didn't have to, after a few weeks of hearing these stories I told Jesse to bring his old orange ball to school and start his own game with that. Surprisingly, the older kids loved Jesse's smaller ball and started using his instead of theirs. And then when they tried to tell Jesse he couldn't play, he told them it was his ball. Problem solved. The ball that has given Jesse great recesses for the rest of the year.
So I decided to take the ball search seriously. I talked to a teacher who saw high school boys playing with it.
I asked some guys who said, Oh, yeah! I was playing with it. But no one had it.
They asked, Is it flat? Is it little and orange?
Yes! Yes! Flat and orange, that's our ball! I realize it looks like trash but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that.
Finally some guys narrowed it down to one classroom, but I didn't see it in there. Owen went so far as to call a teacher with kids on a bus on their way to a soccer game. And those kids told Owen it was in the recycling box on top of the cabinet in the Sociales room. And it WAS!
And I was so happy! I may have been almost as happy as Jesse was.
And I thought, this is what it is to be a parent. To get really excited about a ball that really needs to be thrown out it's so ugly. And then I thought, this must be how God feels about me. The things I get so worried about and wrapped up in and that I think are so important . . . How many times has God answered a prayer that someone else might think was so ridiculous that I should never have even asked in the first place?
But I think He might feel like I did when I handed the ball to my son and watched him light up.