I want to tell you about a T-ball game, a story credited to storyteller Bill Harley. If, like me, you grew up before T-ball, you'll need to know that it’s a game like softball, but with gentle rules for 5 to 8-year olds, kids just starting out in life.
Now, the particular T-ball team Bill described had a girl we'll call Tracy on it. Tracy had coke-bottle glasses and hearing aids on each ear. She came every week, though she wasn't very good. She tried hard, but she never hit the ball, not once. Never came close. Everyone on both sides of the game cheered for her anyway.
The last game of the season, Tracy came up to bat, and through some fluke, she creamed the ball. Smoked it right up the middle, through the legs of the 17 players who had all come in close expecting an easy out. Kids dodged as the ball went by or looked absentmindedly at it as it rolled unstopped, heading into centerfield. When Tracy saw what she had done, she stood at home plate, delighted at her feat.
"Run!" yelled her coach. "Run!" Her parents were on their feet screaming. All the other parents rose, too.
"Run, Tracy, run, run!" Tracy turned and smiled at them, and then, happy to please, galumphed off to first base.
"Keep going, Tracy, keep going!" yelled the first base coach. Happy to please, Tracy headed to second. By the time she was halfway to second, seven members of the opposition had reached the ball and were passing it among themselves. The ball began to make its long journey home.
Tracy headed to third. Adults fell out of the bleachers. "Go, Tracy, go!" Tracy reached third and stopped, but she was very close to her parents now and she got the idea. Tracy started for home.
Then it happened. During the excitement, no one had noticed the 12-year-old geriatric mutt that had lazily settled itself down in front of the bleachers five feet from the third-base line. As Tracy rounded third, the dog, awakened by the screaming, sat up and wagged its tail at Tracy as she headed towards home. The tongue hung out, the mouth pulled back in an unmistakable canine smile, and Tracy stopped, right there. Halfway home, 30 feet from a legitimate home run.
Tracy looked at the dog. Her coach called, "Come on, Tracy! Come on home!" The crowd cheered, "Go, Tracy, go!" She looked at all the adults. She looked at her own parents shrieking and catching it all on video. She looked at the dog. The dog wagged its tail.
She looked at her coach. She looked at home plate. She looked at the dog. Everything went to slow motion. She went for the dog! It was a moment of complete, stunned silence. And then, perhaps, not as loud but deeper, longer, more heartfelt, everyone applauded as Tracy fell to her knees to hug the dog.
Two roads diverged on a third-base line. Tracy went for the dog.