By Roger Lovette
The recent announcement by NBA star basketball player Jason Collins that he is gay reminded me of a story a friend told about going to a championship football game.
As the game progressed, a man sitting in front of him got all fired up and started yelling: “Break the quarterback’s leg! Wring his neck! Knock him out of the game!”
A little lady sitting beside my friend tapped the screamer on the shoulder. He turned around. She simply said: “That’s my boy you’re talking about.”
The enthusiastic fan suddenly became very quiet. He saw the quarterback through different eyes. He still cheered for his team to win — but that tap on the shoulder helped him to see at least one player on the opposing team as some mother’s son.
The world is filled with a whole multitude of some mother’s sons and daughters. They live in Afghanistan and ghettos and behind prison walls and across the street. They are on death row and occupy great seats of power and influence.
Many play on our sporting teams. Behind every name they were once somebody’s little boy or girl.
This age of ours tends to demonize practically everyone at one time or another. We especially target those who disagree with us. We aim in all directions: The president, Israelis or Palestinians, those who are in the other political party.
This is the age of the snarl and the write-off. Who cares about the feelings of the poor, the aged, the gays, the little unknown kids from Pakistan, the little child in Florida that got lost in the bureaucratic system? Nobody missed her for a year. If we can put distance between us and call these others “them,” anger, rage and hate come easier.
But the word “mother” has the capacity to change every enemy. The outsiders we call “they” really are somebody’s boy or girl.
On this Mother’s Day, as we remember our own mothers, it might be good to think of all those other mothers out there and the heartbreak they must feel about the daily rage directed at their children.
Good mothers help their little ones grow up to be fulfilled human beings. What happens in those early months help form a strong foundation of security and trust for the rest of their lives. But a fuller understanding of the word mother could also enable us to reach across the opposing sides and differences.
In treating even those with whom we disagree fairly, something good begins to shine through our lives. Mothers can teach us that we can cheer for our own team without hating the other side.
When the writer Henry James was saying goodbye to his young nephew, he said something the boy never forgot. James told him: “There are three things important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
Some evening when we are tired and some telemarketer is on the other end of the line, maybe our response should be a little different. Who knows who they are? Surely they must hate what they do, randomly calling people who do not want what they sell and hear terrible things said to them. This may be a second job that helps someone eke out a living. Who knows? Perhaps even in our saying no we might remember that somebody’s child is on the other end of the line. We don’t have to be cruel or mean in our response.
Maybe the words “somebody’s child” on this special day will help us recover a common decency that will enable us to treat all with care, respect and dignity. Even basketball players like Jason Collins.
Of all the gifts we might give mothers this year, perhaps we should forgo the perfume, the corsages, the talcum powder and the scarves. Perhaps a greater gift might be to treat with respect and kindness all those we meet.
After all, they really are somebody’s child. What responsible mother would not be proud of such a gift?
— This commentary is adapted from Roger Lovette’s blog and is used with permission.