I caught it out of the corner of my eye. It was a flash. I might have missed it had I looked the other way. I was multi-tasking – like so many of us do. I’d just finished work and was in the process of dropping my twelve-year-old daughter off at a baseball game. This summer she was a bat kid for the Orleans Firebirds, the season’s leading team in the storied Cape Cod Baseball League. In this league college athletes are invited to play for one of ten teams while Major League Baseball (MLB) scouts hover on the periphery with offer letters in hand. In the moment, my daughter got out of the car and skipped her way to the dugout. Happy. Energetic. Anticipating acceptance and success in every facet of the hours that stretched ahead of her.
My fascination with the moment isn’t guided by my being a proud parent – although I am. Instead I am more fascinated by the absence of this spirit, this energy, in myself and so many adult women that I encounter. Is it age? Maturity? Or something else?
My witness to this moment caused me to wonder…
I reasoned that exhaustion plays a hefty role in tamping out this spirit. That day at the ball field I was toggling between last-minute work deliverables, coordinating child care for an unexpected off-site meeting I needed to attend, and all else that constitutes our day-to-day existence.
Even though I was suitably convinced that exhaustion played a major role, today I was reminded of another invisible contributor.
This morning my ten-year old son and I stood waiting in line – with throngs of others – at an open air terminal for San Francisco’s famous cable cars. We are here for a few days on vacation. A homeless man was walking by and noticed my son’s Boston Red Sox sweatshirt. “Maybe next year,” he said acknowledging this season’s poor record. My son smiled at him, an unexpected response that was met with gratitude. This silent exchange started a conversation. The gentleman offered my son some advice. I thought it harmless. It went something like, ‘don’t drink, never do drugs.’ We learned he was a Vietnam vet and an MIT grad. A woman standing in line on the other side of my son looked on, horrified.
My son wasn’t in any danger. The man wasn’t inebriated or aggressive in any fashion. My borderline ‘new-agey’ parenting style was thankful for this exchange. It would allow for a conversation later on about bad choices, repercussions.
If I were an artist I could render this woman’s face perfectly for you. She looked at me with total disdain. I could only imagine that the daggers shooting at me from behind her sunglasses were meant to communicate her disgust at how I let this risky interchange occur. I’ll never know what she was actually thinking. I only have her condescending look to go on.
Could something in that moment offer an illustration of an invisible factor that can weigh on our spirit? Are you aware of the impact that others’ expectations have on you? In my San Francisco moment I simply observed. I wasn’t swayed by what was hurled my way. But it made me realize that in other circumstances the expectations of others may play a greater role.
In the weeks that remain in the summer, my hope is that you steal a moment all for yourself. Dream. Wish. Imagine. Maybe even skip.
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