I was more than a little worried Sunday when I went with my family to watch my great-grandson play basketball with his middle school team. I had plenty to worry about. What if he inherited my total lack of aptitude for any kind of athletics?
I was terrible at all sports in school, but basketball was my worst sport, and it was required. We took the floor each day in pink gingham bloomers, impressively engineered to allow no foolishness. They were fastened together with 23 buttons and a snap-through strap between the legs to assure the bloomers weren’t moving one inch, no matter what the provocation.
When we began to play, though, it was much worse. The teacher singled out each thing I did wrong and loudly shouted out each infraction, impressively missing nothing.
Inevitably, I ended each season demoted to a sort of drill team, where we twirled elongated bowling pins called “Indian clubs.” It was a dull season when I didn’t hit myself or someone else in the head at least twice. And those were the good years.
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Now here I was, going into the gym to see our favorite 12-year-old play. I braced for the worst, which miraculously didn’t happen. The crowd of parents in the bleachers was uniformly supportive. Because the teams didn’t seem to have names, we cheered for the colors on their jerseys.
“Great defense, Blue! Way to hustle, White.”
I entered right in joyously.
“Great way to cluster under the basket,” I enthused.
Finally came the great moment when our star player received the ball and passed it to another player. There was a basket!
“Wasn’t that an assist?” we asked each other excitedly as the ball swooshed through the hoop. I was thrilled. I had no idea what an assist was, but I knew I had just watched my great-grandson almost help his team make a basket.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly an assist,” said my No. 1 son, the player’s grandfather, who is an engineer and very picky. “It would have been as assist if he hadn’t passed the ball to another kid who passed it to the player who made the basket.”
Never mind, it was almost an assist! It was teamwork. He doesn’t take after me!
“Great near-assist” we shrieked, as proud as if great-grandson had scored the winning basket. Of course, the winning basket was scored by the other team, but Team Blue proudly finished the game a scant 10 points down, their season best.
There’s nothing like a middle school basketball game for helping you put things in perspective. I’m thinking probably we should all take more notice of every day’s “almost-assists.” After school is past, most of us take over for the Dread Teacher and yell at ourselves when we can’t make every goal. What I learned Sunday is that an almost-assist can count just as much as a basket, to the people who matter.
Now it’s almost time for my very favorite holiday party and it’s a perfect one for the near-assist crowd. I’m talking about Leap Day, Feb. 29. I like it especially because it only comes every four years. Plenty of time to do the dishes and clean up between parties.
This day is for people who say, “There’s something I’d love to do, but I never have time.” Well, finally, here’s a whole extra day. So the purpose of this party is to celebrate or make up for something you missed these past four years. Everyone has to come to the party prepared with something to share that they missed or didn’t get to celebrate. We’ve celebrated birthdays and other days, big and small. We’ve watched sunsets. One year, a young man said he and his bride wanted to celebrate their missed honeymoon. We were all quickly edging toward the exit, but they just cooked us a nice dinner.
We all have our gifts, but when you find yours, chances are you won’t know what to do with it unless you reach out to share it with someone else. This is a good time to make up for what you have missed and rejoice because not all talent, or lack of it, runs in families. That’s nearly as good as an assist.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. Follow Dorothy’s blog at itsnevertoolate.com. Contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont WA, 98327. Phone 800-548-9264, email Dorothy@itsnevertoolate. com.