Saturday, August 9, 2008

YOUNG HEARTS RUN FREE: In light of the enthusiastic response to Isaac’s recent post about fear among parents letting their children just run outside and play and mine about the Pan-Mass Challenge, I thought I would share two related stories that I would normally not share in this forum.

Since the end of the school year, a friend named Paul and I have been organizing a weekly informal pickup baseball game for boys and girls aged 8 to 12. Anyone who shows up gets to play. Each of these games has been loads of fun. We have had many children who have never played before and a few children who may well catch the eye of college scouts one day.

I just reserve a field, split the kids into reasonably equal teams, and pitch (to keep the game moving quickly). The kids do almost everything else by themselves. We usually get about 20-24 kids to show up, although the cast varies from week to week. We all have a wicked good time.

While there is obviously a little more structure to this than the “spontaneous” pickup baseball games of my youth, this is about as unstructured a game as you will find these days. One other “freedom” related theme I have noticed as the summer has progressed is that at the start of the summer nearly all of the kids were driven to the field by their parents, who would stay and watch the games, as is common here for Little League games. Now, about half the children walk or bike on their own to the field (I do stick around after the games to make sure everyone has a way to get home). I guess what I am trying to say is that these games have turned out to be sort of liberating for both the kids and their parents.

At this week’s game, I saw D. and R., twins who had played on one of my baseball teams this spring. They had missed many of the pickup games recently. They ran over to me at the start of the game and gave me hugs. Then they handed me an envelope.

Puzzled, I opened it and read the card inside. It turns out that the twins had heard about my ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge and had decided to raise money by selling lemonade for 25 cents a cup. They had managed to raise $50, which they donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on my behalf. Their mother’s best friend (whom I don’t even know) had matched the $50 donation. I am searching the thesaurus for a word to describe my reaction, but the best I can do is to say that I was simply awestruck by their kind and generous gesture.

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