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The perspective of life can be altered with a single significant incident. I learned this as a child when I witnessed people’s ignorance tragically turn into a grave outcome. My outlook regarding other people’s way of thinking is what affected my understanding of life the most. No one ever believes it will be them who are harmed or killed, only to be read about in the news as another unfortunate person with a sad story and tragic ending .
I sat in the back seat of my mother’s Acura SUV watching the rain drops stream down the car’s window. I looked beyond the small droplets of water at the blurred image of a baseball field. Lightning lit the sky, exposing the green tops of the trees with a flickering light. The thunder that followed rumbled the ground and frightened me. I was only eight at the time, old enough to understand that I was protected from the storm inside the car, but still young enough for the bright light and loud rumbles to make me tremble ever so slightly. I closed my eyes, listening to the heavy rain pour down. It landed loudly on the car’s sun roof and splattered on the cold, hard cement on the ground below. My brother’s impatient hand tapping on the seat interrupted the rain’s soothing, rhythmic sounds. Brian starred at our mother, silently pleading, asking her to let him out of the car to join his teammates. All of his baseball friends were outside tossing baseballs around and swinging their metal bats. Water dripped off the brims of their hats and mud was
somehow transferred from the wet field onto their white pants. I looked at my brother’s perfectly clean, just out of the wash uniform and understood my brother’s plea. He was left out and wanted so much to be a part of the wet fun his team must have been having.
I diverted my attention from the playing field where the boys were playing to a group of mothers positioned a little ways from them, standing in a tight circle. They stood with one hand tightly wrapped around themselves keeping their jackets squeezed shut while the other hand desperately clasped around a metal umbrella that shielded them from the heavy rain. Power lines hung over their heads like poorly strung Christmas lights. Yet they somehow all managed to be smiling and talking, nodding their heads in participation to their conversation. An occasional glimpse at their boys was done clandestinely as if they didn’t want the other mothers to feel that they were too preoccupied with their own child to be engaged in the conversation. I wondered if my mother felt left out for not joining them, the way my brother felt about his baseball team. If she was left out, she didn’t show one trace of it on her face. One of the moms carrying a navy blue umbrella approached our car, and trudged through puddles with the tip of her shoe launching water forward with every step she took. My mother rolled down her window to talk to the hooded mom who was now standing next to our car. Bending over so that her face was even with my mother’s she asked,
“So are you like paranoid or something?”
Clearly taken aback my mother replied “What do you mean?”
“Well you know, with lightning and thunderstorms.”
In response, my mom raised her eyebrows and tilted her head, letting the other
mother know that she still didn’t understand. My brother and I silently watched our mother converse trying to follow the conversation that was being muffled by the rain.
“I mean, I can’t believe you won’t let your son out of the car.”
“I can’t believe you do let your son out of the car. It’s not safe. There is lighting out and you all are outside on an open field lined with power lines, metal fences, holding your metal umbrellas and the boys are out there swinging their metal bats around.”
“So you are paranoid.”
There was no point in arguing with someone who apparently had no common sense. My mother just shrugged her shoulders while the other mom smiled and shrugged back with an expression that said “It’s all right to be paranoid”. The woman sympathetically walked away from our car placing one of her hands in the back pocket of her light wash jeans, heading back to a cluster of assorted mothers. I watched through the dripping window as the woman faded into the distance and became a wet blur. I swung my dangling legs back and forth patiently waiting to be told we would be able to return home. The fact of the matter was that there was not going to be a baseball game that night. Somehow, no one wanted to believe it and so baseball players, coaches, parents and siblings all waited in hope for the weather to “clear up”.
What seemed like hours to me as an eight year old girl were merely minutes before I was riding in the back seat of the moving car that was now headed home. Rain still streaming down the window, we drove past another baseball field. I pressed my index finger against the cold, foggy glass and used it to scribble a zigzag in the shape of a lightning bolt from the fog. I smeared the drawing with my palm to create a clear spot on
the window. I peered through it and saw the familiar scene of another little league baseball team and their relatives standing outside, silently praying for the storm to let up. The image of the boys in their tall orange socks, spiky cleats and matching orange and black hats flew past me as we rode by. I knew what my mother had said was true. It was not safe outside on that field. I rested my weary eyes and fell quickly asleep to the pit-pattering sound of the rain that slowly grew quieter as I drifted off to sleep.
Warm rays of sun shone through the window in my room and landed gently upon my face that next morning. The sun caused the color on my pink walls to pop and blind me when I first opened my eyes. It seemed impossible for it to be so bright and clear out when yesterday, just hours ago, the sky was engulfed in fog and darkness. When I went downstairs to greet my mother, her forced smile told me something was wrong. The news my mother shared with me was shocking but would later enlighten me. Two coaches had been struck by lighting. They had been walking across the baseball field, checking playing conditions for a possible game to be played out the next morning. They were the coaches of the boys in orange and black on the field we had passed driving home. Most people had already left the field when it happened. Few stragglers witnessed the disaster. My mother informed me that one of the coaches had died and the other was in the hospital and in “critical condition”, as she called it.
I could not fully grasp the concept of death at age eight but, because of this incident, I came to a better understanding of what it meant to die. Death was not something that happened to random people. Death could fall upon you just as suddenly and hard as the rain that had poured down on the earth that night. The woman who spoke
with my mom, standing outside with her umbrella and accusing her of being paranoid was ignorant. She clearly felt that nothing bad would happen to her despite all warnings she must have received her entire life about lighting and safety. I realized that it was not just that woman who saw life in this manner. Too many people are ignorant about death and hurt, not because they are uninformed about it, but because they choose not to believe it will happen to them.