Friday, July 16, 2010

The Gift of Hope

My daughter's softball team lost a hard-fought tournament game tonight and, sadly, finished in fifth place overall. Yet, looking back at the season, it was a tremendous success for her. In addition to getting a chance to pitch in the junior fastpitch league, and being coached by a phenomenal, strong and positive woman coach, she made a wonderful friend named Hope.

Kate is timid and it takes her awhile to make new friends. I thought I would try and help things along a bit, and I got her a giant bag of sunflower seeds to take to her softball practices and games and share with her teammates. At the very first practice, a smiling blonde girl named Hope taught Kate how to spit out the shell of the sunflower seed. They sat on the bench talking, and spitting, and laughing all through the first couple of practices.

Throughout the season, I would see the girls smiling and laughing together. Hope would do something silly and make Kate laugh. Hope would start a cheer when Kate was up to bat or call out encouragement from the bench.

The two girls could not be more different. Hope is a wild thing that loves softball and plays with fierce intensity. She is loud and makes lots of jokes and draws people to her with her bold personality. She wore bright purple capris and her red jersey with aplomb. Hope would slide into bases and intentionally pitch close to the batter to intimidate them. And she would smile the whole time she was playing.

As I was looking back through photos of the season, I noticed that in quite a few of them, Hope is right behind Kate. Always intense. Always encouraging. That is Hope.

There she is right behind Kate who was pitching.

After tonight's disappointing loss and a speech from the team's coaches encouraging the girls to keep playing ball, we walked off the field. Hope was getting into her family's van when she spotted Kate and smiled and ran over to hug her. I congratulated Hope on a good game (she had a fantastic slide into first base in one inning), and she smiled. Kate mentioned how much she will miss Hope. I will too.

I believe that God brings people into our lives for a reason. I wish that life came easier to my daughter. I wish she could live life headstrong with wild abandon. Hope gave her a glimpse of what that would be like. And I will be forever grateful.

It was a very good season.