He was ready to knock it right out of the park. There I was, wiffle-ball in hand, facing my most fierce opponent yet. Joshua was a four-year-old, switch-hitting batter prepared to take anything I threw at him and smash it into his mother’s cabinets. We had competed in his mother’s living room all night: we played trucks versus trains, hot wheels racing, and a game that seemed like a mix between soccer and volleyball… that turned into a cops-and-robbers type of thing. But this time we were serious.
He had picked up a plastic bat that was about as tall as he was and he wanted me to pitch him the ball. We stared each other down (well, I stared down at him and he stared up at me). I went through my wind up. Letting the ball go in an upward trajectory; my lobbed pitch was high but not too high, and right down the middle. I saw whatever power the little four-year-old child could generate shift from his legs into his arms, forcing his arms to flail forward. I ducked.
“You missed!”…said Joshua bursting out in laughter.
At first I was in shock, not really knowing what he meant. “What?” I said. He pointed at me and again exclaimed, “YOU MISSED!” After letting the idea settle a bit, I found that it was quite an interesting little predicament: he wanted to play baseball so he named me the pitcher, so I pitched the ball to him and he swung but missed. Therefore, I was to blame?
“You missed!” I retorted like a four-year-old bully. Joshua, being the bigger person, just laughed it off and said, “OK, lets play again!” So I continued to pitch and he continued to flail. After every at-bat, we’d have the same argument: I would try to convince him that it was his fault for missing the ball, and he would just laugh as if I was wrong. I’m sure that by the time our moms came to tell us we had to go to bed, he still fully believed that I was a horrible pitcher and that he was the best batter in the world—even though he hadn’t hit the ball once.
Naturally, I went to bed thinking about this. It was funny how Joshua’s mind had not been polluted by society, he wasn’t indoctrinated by American “common sense.” Throughout the night, I had seen evidence of this little boy’s joy, his imagination and creativity. I wanted that. I wondered what it would be like to be a toddler again; how it would feel to live without this world’s standards, to not be limited by this realm of society. To him life was so simple and the world was like a box of toys, open and ready to be explored.
It made me think about our Lord, and his love for children. Why did He love such kids who had nothing to offer Him? No money, no career, no achievements to throw before His feet? They had nothing that they could sacrifice before our God, no idols to really turn away from. And yet our Lord was always blessing the children, drawing them near to Him (Mk 10:13). Jesus even tells us to “receive the kingdom of God like a child.” I wondered what it all meant.
I suppose it is the freedom of thought that children possess. They don’t have to abide by cultures or societal influences, they can give an undividable attention. Kids don’t serve two masters, they recognize one as their Father and love whole-heartedly. When they love someone their love is displayed to its fullest and they don’t hold anything back for the sake of saving face. I want that too.
The next night Joshua and I got to play again. We each had a busy day: I was running around Connecticut and he spent the day in daycare. Our parents left the living room talking about Chinese markets and their favorite kind of mochi. They left Joshua and me all alone. He looked at me, glowing as he reached for his bat. I smiled and went to pick up the wiffle-ball. Just like I had done so many times the night before, I tossed the ball towards him and ducked.
“You missed AGAIN!” he shouted towards me. All I could do this time was look up and smile.
“You’re right, Joshua, I missed. I’ll try to do better next time.”