Birmingham, Alabama—a minor league baseball game, a well-attended one. The chatty boy sitting next to me said his name was Martin. I remember this because he said it over and over again.
Martin had Down syndrome, he wore a hearing aid, and spoke loud enough to rupture my eardrums. “MY NAME’S MARTIN!” he pointed out again.
I must’ve shaken his hand ninety-seven times.
After the fourth inning, they put Martin’s face on the jumbo screen. It was his birthday. Five thousand folks sang to him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smile that big on a human-being before.
“I love you, Martin,” said his father beside him.
Martin was ten years old.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama—it costs a small fortune for a parking spot at football games. That is, if you’re lucky enough to find one. We drove slow, looking for free space to cram the truck into. A middle-aged man in his yard flagged me down. I lowered my window.
“You can park here,” he said. “On my lawn.”
“How much?” I asked, waiting for a four-digit number.
“Free. I have a golf-cart, too. I’ll even give you a ride to the stadium.”
My wife leaned over to whisper, “Honey, he might be an axe murderer.”
Maybe, but this axe murderer had a golf-cart.
I tried to pay the man for his trouble. He said, “Save your money for someone who needs it.”
Chatanooga, Tennessee—I saw a girl spill a Frapuccino on her skirt. It went everywhere. She didn’t cry about it—though she was close.
Without skipping a beat, the young lady behind the counter came to mop up the mess. She brought a change of clothes. “They’re clean,” she said. “I haven’t worn them yet.”
“I can’t take your clothes,” said the other girl.
“Sure you can. Besides, they’ll look better on you. You’re prettier than I am.”
Well. Pretty is as pretty does.
The older I get, the harder good days are to find. Bad news is everywhere. Just the other day, I read about a woman raping her own daughter. It soured my stomach. I couldn’t finish eating.
Sadness is in the atmosphere. Even if you were to turn off your television and unsubscribe to the paper, it would crawl through your shower drains and toilets. Another day, another murder, another war, another politician buying a beach house.
Well, I don’t have any answers. And I’m sad to say, I don’t know how to make the world better place, or how to stay happy in the middle of a hate-hurricane.
But I know someone who does.
His name is Martin.