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It’s a beautiful day. The great expanse of the sky sparkles a cerulean blue, clear and unblemished by clouds. Warmth radiates from the sun, as it shines upon a grassy field. A short wire fence encircles the field and beyond the fence trees spring up in great numbers, their long, leafy branches waving in a slight wind. The trees obscure everything behind them, making the field the only thing perceptible. The breeze provides a short relief from the heat, however it soon fades away. Sweat begins to run down the eager faces of the many spectators that are clustered together on bleachers at the edge of the field, but the uncomfortable heat goes unnoticed as their focus remains riveted on the soccer game before them.
Shouts from the coaches and players clashes with the cheers and yells from the eager fans, and their combined noises overpower the quieter sounds of nature. The birds soft chirping and the trees creaking and groaning go unnoticed. On the field, one team is clearly winning, and the score stands at two to nothing. Already the losing team is playing with a somewhat dejected air around them, as if they think they are going to lose. The winning team, on the other hand, seems confident and even a little cocky, having caught the scent of victory.
Nothing seems to be working for the losing team, no play they try or goal they attempt has been successful and the score remains the same as the first half ends with the sounding of a shrill horn. The coach of the losing team looks down at his bench, and players with tired faces and sweaty jerseys wearily look up at him. All but one. Teddy, a small boy who looks much younger than his eleven years, eagerly gazes at the coach, ready for an opportunity to prove himself able to do more than warm the bench and fetch water. The coach, who has tried everyone and everything else, decides to give Teddy a chance. He calls Teddy over, as his assistant coach tries to spark some life into the rest of the team.
The coach looks at Teddy for a moment before asking, “How are you feeling? Are you ready to go in?”
During his moment to shine, Teddy’s ever present enthusiasm falters as his worries overwhelm him and he looks down at the ground for a second before saying, “What happens—what happens if I mess up? I want to go in and help the team, but what if I cost us a goal or make the team look bad or—I just don’t think I should go in.”
“Don’t think about any of that. Forget the score, forget the odds, and forget about everyone else. Do this for yourself. Go out there and do your best,” the coach answers him with a reassuring smile and a pat on the back.
“But still, I’m sure there is someone, anyone, on the team who would be a better choice,” Teddy says, still oppressed by self-doubts.
“Well, right now I am asking you, not someone else, to go out there and play as hard as you possibly can. If you just do that, then you will be fine. Come on, your team needs you right now,” the coach tells Teddy, hoping the boy will take the words to heart.
Briefly contemplating his coach’s advice, Teddy pauses for a few seconds, before looking up with a still slightly unsure smile and nodding his head as he answers, “Okay coach.”
At first, Teddy is overwhelmed. The game is loud and moving quickly, everyone is eager to get to the ball and set the tone for the new half. But soon he grows accustomed to the fast pace and although he does not even get close to the ball for a while, a grin begins to spread as the excitement of the game rubs off on him. The other team scores yet another goal, and the score becomes three to nothing. But another member of Teddy’s team, inspired by the other teams accomplishment, manages to steal the ball a few minutes later and begins to dribble down to the other teams goal. He passes the ball to Teddy, as two players from the other team close in on him. Teddy has the ball for the first time ever. He dribbles it down the field for a few seconds before passing it back to his teammate who nears the goal and… he scores!
Teddy whoops aloud with joy and eagerly looks to the stands, searching the crowd for his mother, keen to share his accomplishment with her. When his gaze finally alights upon her face, he sees and then hears that she is calling his name, “Teddy! Teddy!,” and then she begins to yell, “Wake up, Teddy! Wake up!”
Teddy is confused and while he is trying to figure out what she could mean, he begins to notice that the field, the players, and the fans are all fading away and the sounds are dimming until suddenly he opens his eyes, blinking a few times to clear the sleep from them. He sees his mother, sitting right next to him, staring at him excitedly.
“Look Teddy! You’re wiggling your toes!” she tells him, looking close to tears.
Looking around, Teddy tries to remember where he is and how he got there. He sees a small room, with walls painted a bright blue, the color of the sky, with paintings of trees with outstretched branches. A window is to his left, and has been left halfway open so that he can feel a soft gust of air upon his face. Then Teddy realizes he is lying in a hospital bed, with a big plastic railing on both sides confining him. A short desk filled with flowers, teddy bears, and even a balloon in the shape of a soccer ball, lies on his left side and on his right his mother sits, still gazing at him with a look of pure elation upon her face. His memory comes rushing back to him and the daunting reality of his car accident and subsequent paralysis settle heavily upon him.
“What’s going on Mom? Why are you getting so excited?” Teddy asks her, his voice still somewhat groggy with sleep.
Before she can answer, a door behind her opens and a short, chubby man in a long, white coat walks into the room. He sends a friendly smile in Teddy’s direction before asking in a booming voice, “What’s this I hear about someone moving their toes?”
Teddy’s mother nods at the man, whom Teddy remembers has been his doctor since the accident, and then she replies, “Yes! He was! I saw him. Come on now Teddy, wiggle your toes again.”
Teddy stares down at his now motionless toes, and puts all of his energy into trying to move them, and seconds later his toes begin to wiggle yet again.
The doctor shakes his head before saying, “That is just remarkable my boy! The chances of recovering from this sort of paralysis are not good, and it has been more than a couple of days since the accident, yet here you are, wiggling away. I don’t know what motivated you, but more improvement like this, and you might be playing soccer again sometime in the near future! Your mother tells me that you practice nonstop in your backyard.”
Teddy nods absently and smiles, as a wisp of a dream comes back to him.