The highest form of wisdom is kindness, says the classical commentary on the Bible, the Talmud. When you read this story, you will understand why.
Kevin was slow in learning. Slow in understanding. Slow in doing things. And yet he had a bright smile and a big heart. This won him plenty of friends. When the pastor decided to put together a basketball team, Kevin wanted to join in. Soon basketball became a center of Kevin’s life. While the other boys practiced dribbling and lay-ups Kevin shot baskets. He had a special spot near the free throw line. He threw and threw the ball, and it occasionally went in! When that happened, Kevin raised his arms and shouted, “Look at me, Coach!”
The team fared badly in the Church league’s tournament. They did not win one game. And in their last game, the boys were playing against the team that had not lost one single game all year.
The game went as expected, and near the end of the last quarter Kevin’s team stood nearly 40 points behind. It was then that one of the boys called timeout. “Coach,” he said, “this is our last game and Kevin’s never made a basket. I think we should let him make a basket.” The team agreed. Kevin was instructed to stand at his special place near the free throw line and wait. He was told that when he was given the ball, he should shoot.
Kevin was ecstatic. He ran to the floor and waited. When the ball was passed to him he shot … and missed. One of the players of the other team snatched the rebound, dribbled down the court for an easy lay-up. But a moment later Kevin got the ball again. He shot – and missed. The other player repeated his performance for another two points. Kevin shot a third and fourth time with the same result.
But then somehow the other team figured out what was going on and the next time they snatched the rebound, they threw it back to Kevin! Kevin shot…and missed. But now every rebound came to him and he threw and threw towards the basket.
At this point, both teams had circled Kevin and all of the boys were shouting, “Kevin! Kevin!” The crowd took up the chant. The coach realized also that the timekeepers had stopped the clock with 4.3 seconds remaining! They too were standing by their table shouting with the crowd, “Kevin! Kevin!”
Kevin continued shooting and shooting and finally one of his shots took a crazy bounce on the rim and … went in! Chaos reigned! Everyone stood and cheered as if one boy had single-handedly won the world championship. Kevin’s arms sprang up in the air and he shouted, “I won! I won!” His team escorted him off the court, the clock ticked down and the game was over.
That day an undefeated team retained their perfect record. Yet everybody had won. Everybody! Because everybody had participated in a crazy conspiracy of kindness, a simple act of compassion that was so compelling, so powerful, that made many even the angels in heaven rejoice. It is true. If you haven’t any kindness in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart sickness.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.