(Editor’s note: I wrote this column in July 2003. Re-reading it this week, it seemed like an appropriate piece to reprint.)
By Susan Crowell
The Crowell family just wrapped up another hectic baseball/softball season. I hated it and I loved it and I am glad it’s over and I am sorry it’s over.
I loved playing ball growing up – that’s all we ever did during recess at Walnut Creek Elementary and my sister Carol and I would play pitch and catch for hours. And in those pre-fastpitch softball years, I even played on a hardball, all-girl, Little League-like baseball team that played teams from Millersburg and Killbuck.
Sitting on the sidelines is a whole different story. Always is. Especially in a world where many parents aren’t passive spectators, but vocal fan-atics. A world where everyone’s a critic, including – gulp – me.
Different ballpark. I started thinking about parents’ good intentions now in the midst of county fair season, and wishing all of us adults would find that elusive “chill pill.”
If you think about it, really, youth sports or hobbies or county fair participation isn’t about winning, it’s just about having fun. And if we learn something along the way, which we invariably do, that’s a bonus.
It’s about making new friends, bonding with coaches or advisers, and learning that a little cooperation goes a long way.
County fairs are “family friendly” events, even more so to fair participants. Working on a project usually turns out to be a family affair, which then lures even more friends and neighbors to the fair. It’s time for show and tell.
Adult volunteers are everywhere at the fair, keeping an eye on youth of all ages, and lending a hand or moral support when needed. Parents whose children are long past show age continue to volunteer, to stay young, to stay involved, to stay a part of the pride.
But we’ve all seen those parents who push a little too hard, complain a little too often or do everything but lead the animal into the ring for their child. The rewards to that adult, to that child, are tarnished by the experience. Too many people focus on the negative, rather than the positive.
Jeff Goodwin, director of 4-H youth development programs at Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, uses the following story from an unknown author to remind adults of appropriate involvement in youth activities. It’s worth sharing.
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Two wolves. An old Native American grandfather said to his grandson who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story. I, too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
“But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.”
He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. He saves all his energy for the right fight.
“But the other wolf, ahhh! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”
“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
The boy looked intently into his grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
The grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)