Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Ballpark Prayer


It felt like the worst kind of dream. One minute three-year old Eddie was playing on the playground, and the next he was gone. 

We were at Calvin's baseball game, and I had turned away just long enough to watch him bat. After he rounded the bases I turned back to Eddie, but couldn't see him. 

I scanned the monkey bars, but he wasn't there. The swings. The slide. The sandpit.  

I stood from the bleachers and walked closer, trying not to run, but my heart was starting to pound. What color was his shirt? Light blue. Light blue, light blue. I glanced back at the bleachers. Surely he would be there. The snack bar? The drinking fountain? 

I called out to Jack, who couldn't seen him either. It was getting harder to breathe. Has anyone seen a little boy? Light blue shirt? Now I'm running.  

Several minutes pass and I'm starting to cause a scene. Kind strangers get up to look. Little boy. Light blue shirt. 

Another several minutes, an eternity, and an announcement comes over the intercom. All games are suspended, says the voice. We need everyone's help. Little boy, light blue shirt. Players leave their positions. 

People are calling Eddie's name all around me, and I drop to my knees. Jack, seeing my panic, grabs our other kids and brings them to me. 

"Calvin," he says. "We need you to say a prayer." Little Calvin, fresh dirt on his baseball pants, removes his hat. Hurry Calvin, I think.

Instead, a long pause. "Dear Heavenly Father," he finally begins. "We are so thankful for this day. We're thankful for our many blessings."

I open my eyes and look at him. Faster Calvin, I silently plead.

"We're thankful for our health, and that we live in a free country." Let's be thankful for them later, I whisper. He carries on as though we're sitting around the Thanksgiving table, and not at the center of a frantic search.

"Please bless those who are less fortunate than us." WE are less fortunate Calvin. Get to the point I am begging you. 

Above his voice, I hear of chorus of voices calling Eddie's name. Cal, meanwhile, has suddenly become Enos.

Finally, after mentioning everything from the food we have to eat to his last inning, he concludes with a plea that Eddie be found. "Amen." he says. "Amen." repeat the other kids.

And then, a moment later, Eddie. 

A man is leading him toward us from an adjacent parking lot. It turns out that he had had wandered to the point he was lost, then kept wandering and wandering. There's panic in his face too. 

I am overcome. So relieved. So grateful. So embarrassed. 

The games resume and I pretend to watch but all I want to do is bury a hole under the pitchers mound and hide in it. 

It's days, in fact, before I can stop obsessively replaying the events and what ifs. What if things had turned out worse? What if we never found him? Why did I look away? What were people thinking? When I'm finally able to settle and reflect, an image emerges in my mind. It's not of Eddie, but of Calvin and myself on opposite ends of a continuum.

On the one side is Calvin. He is faith. On the other side is me. I am works. 

While I had put all my energy into the effort required to find Eddie, Cal had relied entirely on a higher power. I would love to have had his faith in that moment, but we both had good intentions and I believe that, ideally, we fall somewhere in the middle. 

I think that's what James meant when he wrote that "Faith without works is dead," or Saint Augustine, who said, "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." 

Before every game since that night, I said a silent prayer that Eddie would be safe. And then I never kept my eyes off him. 

The Ballpark Prayer

  It felt like the worst kind of dream. One minute three-year old Eddie was playing on the playground, and the next he was gone.  We were at...