We Always Have a Choice

Have you ever found yourself in a situation believing you had no choices available to you? What happens when you step back to see what options are available?

Recently, the kids and I watched the sandlot. It is a great 90’s children’s movie about a boy who moves to a new neighborhood and befriends a group of kids who play baseball at a community sandlot. The movie is comical and full of heart-felt adventures. The antagonist in the story is a large dog named the Beast a.k.a. Hercules. He is an infamous ball stealer and due to an urban legend, the kids are terrified of him.

Over The Fence

Spoiler alter ahead.

In the end of the movie, the kids realize that all of the balls they had hit into old Hercules’ yard over the years, including a ball signed by Babe Ruth himself, could have been retrieved with a simple knock on a door. A realization that would have saved the gang much trouble but made for a not so entertaining movie.

Recently, my kids hit a big green ball over our 7-foot-tall fence while playing with their grandfather in the backyard. We have periodically hit balls over the fence over the years, a common occurrence with young kids, and I, not fearing the retribution of a herculean threat, simply jumped the fence each time to rescue the ball. Well, on the day the big green ball went over the fence, I was inside working and my 74-year-old father in-law was not keen on scaling a 7-foot-fence. So, he accompanied my 8-year-old son around the block to knock on our neighbours door to retrieve the ball, the same strategy that would have saved the sandlot gang from a lot of trouble.

About 10 minutes later, my father in-law returned, without the ball. Apparently, he met the owner of the home, a 70’s something woman, and had asked if he could retrieve the ball from her backyard. Instead of receiving permission, he got an earful. I guess the home-owner was not feeling very benevolent but more beast-like. However, when he entered our home he simply asked me to jump the fence informing me that the woman had no joy in her life. I assumed our neighbor told my father-in-law to get the ball using his own means.

A Beast of Our Own

“My not so neighbourly neighbour was giving me everything she had..."

A few moments later, I’d scaled the fence and lowered myself into the yard. I grabbed the ball and was about to turn to throw it back to my kids when I heard, “What are you doing in my backyard?!!!!!” I turned to see an elderly woman standing on her porch, hands on her hips and fire in her eyes (okay, there was no fire but something sure was burning the bees in her bonnet).

I am not accustomed to being spoken to in the manner in which she addressed me. I explained that my father-in-law had just been at her door requesting to retrieve the ball and when he returned he asked me to jump the fence. I was told that he did not do as she’d requested and I apologized for the misunderstanding. My not so neighbourly neighbour was giving me everything she had and I couldn’t help but think about how villains are portrayed in children’s movies and how she sure fit the bill.

After what can only be described as a good tongue lashing only an authoritarian parent could give a child, I jumped the fence after retrieving the ball and ensured the lady that we would do what we could to stop balls from entering her yard. The encounter had not been a pleasant. As I land in our yard, my son, who has stood but an ear shot away during my visit says, “That lady sure has no joy in her life.”

When talking with my children about the importance of keeping the balls in our yard we discussed why the woman may have been so bothered by what happened and that we needed to have compassion for her. She may have been miserable but that didn't have to rub off on us.

Furious to Curious

"What had happened to get her to throw the ball over the fence after we'd agreed to do our beset to keep the balls in our yard?"

A few days later, my children were in the backyard playing, with the dog. Yes, you know where this is going. The sliding door to the backyard slide open to where I was washing dishes and my son yelled, “Mila threw the ball over the fence, on purpose!” All I could think was, “WHAT!!?” Immediately, I had a waking nightmare where I was a child in the sandlot trying to sneak back into the "beasts’" backyard and I got caught. I felt a little stressed at the thought of dealing with such a negative personality. My daughter came inside and I reiterated the issue with balls going back into our neighbour’s yard and without listening to her side, sent her to her room. I was frustrated she'd placed me in such a position.

The nightmare played over and over in my head as I returned to the dishes. What are we to do, I thought to myself. Then a new thought entered my mind. My daughter. What had happened to get her to throw the ball over the fence after we’d agreed to do our best to keep the balls in our yard? I stopped feeling furious and moved on to curious. I called her down, hugged her and we talked.

What had happened was my son, who is much larger and stronger than my daughter, was playing “catch” and the force in which he would throw the ball to his sister was too much for her to handle. Instead of catching the ball, she was hit by it. After a few throws she’d had enough and wanted the discomfort to end but for that to happen she felt she needed to get rid of the ball. In, what seemed like a moment of desperation, she did the unthinkable. She threw the ball back to the "beast."

Once I extracted the story from my daughter, I acknowledged and validated her experience. I understood now why she wanted to get rid of the ball and although I didn’t agree with her choice it was an understandable action given the circumstance.

The Choice is Ours

"How can you express yourself in a way that serves you vs. keeps you feeling the hits?"

With our 3rd lockdown, we may experience times when we feel overwhelmed. Much like my daughter felt attempting to catch the ball thrown by her brother. The force of the ball was too much, it felt like an attack as she kept getting hit. She was unable to catch the ball or dodge it. In her situation, she simply took the only option she felt was available to her, she threw the ball over the fence. Potentially causing more issues (with our neighbor). She failed to realize that she had other choices available to her, she could have stopped playing all together, walked away, or taken a moment, expressed what her experience was, and how she wished to play the game, which would possibly have changed her experience.

When you feel overwhelmed, what games are you playing in your mind? Where in your life are you feeling attacked by your circumstance as you take hit after hit? Can you walk away or at least find some form of respite to collect yourself? The lockdown is something you can’t change or walk away from but what mental shifts can you make? How can you express yourself in a way that serves you vs. keeps you feeling the hits? Like the saying goes, it's not the cards you're dealt but how you play your hand.

It’s been a few days since my daughter threw the big green ball into our neighbor’s yard and, it’s now joined by a Kong Frisbee. We’ve decided to let our neighbours keep the toys or return them, on their own. Neither item bears a signature nor is their loss life or death. In the end, I decided the best choice was to do nothing because doing nothing is still a choice and at times that type of choice can serve. Instead of stressing over what to do about the ball, after realizing I wasn't in any position to act after all, I simply accepted the situation and focused on what I could control.

What choices are you making that help you during this unprecedented time?

~ Love Robert

Photo by Kat von Wood

I'm Robert

I am a father, a husband, a coach, an educator, and a life-long martial artist. I have inspired and motivated people throughout my life and, at times, I didn't even know it, until they told me. These are my stories, my thoughts, and my beliefs and I want to share them with you, my fellow traveler. 

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