Good Will

It’s morning. I’m parked at a community ballpark, eating a breakfast sandwich.

I made the mistake of turning on the radio. It’s nothing but horrifying news, greasy politics, shouting evangelists, and music that sounds like a choir of chainsaws with chest colds.

Radio off.

I see a boy in an oversized helmet, he’s on the field by himself. A man pitches underhand to him. The kid swings. After a few strikes, he hits a home run. It arcs clear over the fence.

Meet William. He’s the 9-year-old who hit the ball, and he hit that thing harder than Roy Hobbs.

Right now, William is very happy. You can see it on him. He’s running the bases. His legs are skinny, his face is all smiles. William has Down syndrome, and his tender heart is the size of four U.S. states.

This morning, his father has been teaching him to use a bat. Will’s mother is the only one in the bleachers.

“I didn’t expect Will to be so amazing,” his mother says. “Did you see him hit that ball?”

I can sort of relate to what Will must be feeling. The first time I ever hit a baseball over the fence was the only time it ever happened. It was the apex of boyhood.

I was about William’s age. I was moderately chubby, unathletic, I liked pocket knives, pork products, endurance napping, and I wore Superman underpants.

I was no Johnny Bench, but I liked the game.

I remember when my father handed me the bat during a game. It was top of the eighth. My T-shirt bore the name of a local gas station. My white pants had a patch sewn on the seat á la my mom.

Daddy said, “Keep. Your. Eye. On. The. Ball.”

I swung. It was pure luck. The thing sailed like the S.S. Minnow. Over the fence. Home run. And the image I remember most clearly is my father throwing his hat upward into the air.

I’ll never forget the words he hollered: “WEEE DOGGGY!” Just like Jed Clampett. In fact, that’s probably where he learned it.

He only said “weee doggy” when he was overcome with feeling. It was high praise.

So William trots the bases. His father claps. His mother claps. I clap. There’s nobody in the park this morning except us, but it feels like the ‘95 World Series.

“Every day’s like this,” says William’s father. “Will gets excited over everything. It can be baseball or whatever. That’s the blessing that William has brought into my life. He is excited all the time.”

Once upon a time, William’s father was an auto mechanic. He made decent money. When their newborn son came, the doctor said life would be complicated. And it was.

His father quit his job. They moved into a smaller place. William’s parents built their world around medical appointments.

His father took a job at a grocery store to be closer to home. The money isn’t great, but they’ve been happy. He wouldn’t change a thing.

“Our life is perfect,” says his father. “You get a kid like William, you won the lottery. That’s me. I won the lottery.”

William is a happy guy. And according to his parents, he’s always this way.

“Only time we ever see him sad,” his father goes on, “is when something dies. He doesn’t understand death.”

They saw a dead deer on the side of the road a few weeks ago. It tore William up. William wanted to know who was going to take care of the orphan deer. William wanted to help.

His mother says, “Will teaches us to SEE things, that’s his gift. His superpower.”

Speaking of seeing. I wish you could see what I am seeing.

William rounds third base, arms straight out like an airplane. “HEY!” he shouts. “HEY, I DID IT, DAD!”

Father and son hug. William’s oversized helmet falls off.

“You’re the best ball player I’ve ever seen,” says his father—who is due at work in an hour.

“No, Dad,” says William. “You’re the best dad there will ever be. I love you so much, Dad. I love, love, love, love, love, love you.”

I’m glad I turned off my radio.

Weee doggy.

40 comments

  1. Dennis Michael Perry - July 31, 2022 7:25 am

    My cousins daughter had Down syndrome. Her name was Patsy. She was the sweetest person you would ever know. Enthusiastic, kind and loving. These children are a gift to all of us.

    Reply
  2. Tom McCoppin - July 31, 2022 7:29 am

    Wonderful. Brought back some mixed memories. I was always terrible at baseball. Never got a single hit or caught a single ball. Until the first day of 7th grade, when I was given a rudimentary physical that included an eye test. Turns out I was blind as a bat. I couldn’t even see the “E”. My new pair of glasses changed my life, especially on the baseball field. I still can’t figure out how I went 12 years without a single teacher, my parents, or any adult for that matter, not noticing that I couldn’t see. That next Spring, on opening day, I knocked the first pitch thrown to me over the center field scoreboard. I had never experienced tears of joy until that day. It was a flood as I rounded the bases. It was 58 years ago but I remember it, and can still feel it, like it was yesterday. Thanks for the memories Sean.

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  3. Ann Thompson - July 31, 2022 8:14 am

    Lovely essay to start my day. Thank you. Radio off.

    Reply
  4. Naomi Smith - July 31, 2022 8:39 am

    What incredibly good parents to be able to have that view of their son, to align their lives to accommodate his needs.
    As parents of special needs children, life does get complicated. Our 2 boys played tee ball and baseball. They were 6 years apart. We live in a rural area so their games were played sometimes 45 miles away. My husband worked out of state and was gone every other 2 weeks. If the boys had out of town games on the same night, I had to find someone to take our oldest with them, and I took our youngest. He had seizures and several other issues. When my husband was home, we rotated who took which boy, so that we could each share their victories. One night, we both got to go to the youngest boy’s game. The bases were loaded and kids and parents kind of groaned because our son was up at bat. He accidentally hit the ball and through a series of fielding errors, it turned into a home run for our son!! The only one he ever had, but it did his confidence a world of good. The other kids called him a hero. What a blessing that night was!

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  5. Glenda Williams - July 31, 2022 9:07 am

    Weee doggy.

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  6. Dee - July 31, 2022 10:00 am

    Oh my. How precious. His parents and William. Thank you!

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  7. Anne Arthur - July 31, 2022 10:17 am

    Our world is full of wonderful people. Thanks for turning the radio off.

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  8. Mary Spechko - July 31, 2022 10:39 am

    Love this story. The children and adults that I know that have Down Syndrome are happy and loving. William sounds just like that.

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  9. Lander - July 31, 2022 10:46 am

    What a blessing to have eyes to see what can be so exciting, and to see the heartbreak of death in the smallest things. That’s a home run.

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  10. Cathie Fowler - July 31, 2022 10:56 am

    You really hit ‘home’ with today’s column. Our granddaughter has Down’s Syndrome and is the light of our lives. She just turned 3, and her love is amazing; when she hugs, she pats your back and then takes your face in her hands to give you a kiss. There were so many questions when she was born, but her health is good, and we’re told she’ll need a car and to save for college some day. We’re so blessed! Life is good, and we can’t put into words all the joy and love we experience with her. If she didn’t live 30 minutes away, we’d move!

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  11. oldlibrariansshelf - July 31, 2022 10:59 am

    We’re doggy, indeed!

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  12. Dolores - July 31, 2022 11:58 am

    It’s been said the Lord gives special children to special people. There’s no greater example than the folks you wrote about. Such a great lesson in being grateful for what you’ve been given: greater (spiritual) blessings are sure to follow.
    “Whoever is faithful with little is faithful with much also…” Luke 16:10

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  13. Te - July 31, 2022 12:15 pm

    So many people – well, maybe most of them except parents of a Downs Syndrome child — think these people are stupid, have low IQs, can’t live in the real world. I read recently where a DS man retired from running a restaurant! Another boy in his early 20s (unsure of age) and his dad started a sock company for the wildest design socks. They were on Fox morning show once. They make wonderful employees. The idea that DS people have low IQs is proving to be erroneous, but I haven’t seen any research that proves it. And with all that unrecognized intelligence, they bring heart, compassion, love, joy — well, their lives are maybe more blessed than our own. Just think of the agonizing worries they don’t even recognize! I did hear many years ago of a woman who had a DS child and began research into causes. While her child was still a baby, she developed a milkshake of amino acids, vitamins and I-don’t-know-what-else to feed the child. By the time the child was 2, so the story goes, you couldn’t tell that child from any other. All evidence of DS was gone. Given normal intelligence, this would have saved the child from a life of prejudice and dismissal. So WEEE DOGGIE!

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  14. Trent - July 31, 2022 12:31 pm

    Pure joy Sean! Thanks – one of your best efforts!

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  15. sjhl7 - July 31, 2022 12:32 pm

    Brought tears of joy to my eyes and love to my heart. Thank you, Sean and William! Made my day!

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  16. Ken Pearson - July 31, 2022 12:48 pm

    I’m also glad you turned off radio so you could share this good word with us. We need more good words.

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  17. David Britnell - July 31, 2022 1:07 pm

    I’ve never seen a person with Down’s Syndrome that was mad! They always seem to be upbeat and ready to give a hug.

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  18. Irene Clements - July 31, 2022 1:28 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for this beautiful story. We adopted our daughter who has Down Syndrome 38 years ago when she was 5 months old. Lots of medical needs but the sweetest baby in the world. Well, that has not changed. At 38 she is an amazing woman who sees the very best in everyone she meets. She spreads love, compassion, empathy and pure joy everywhere she goes and has many champions in her life. I often pray that everyone in this world could have at least a touch of Down Syndrome because this would then be a far better world to live in.

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  19. Lifetime Chicago - July 31, 2022 2:26 pm

    I have worked in special education and have seen just the opposite where young Down Syndrome students have been hitting teachers. What I absolutely loved about this story is the focus of parents being with their children. I knew one boy who was so angry, Dad was working a very, intensive, long full-time job and Mom was too busy with her part-time job and other child. They were wonderful people. But we need to take a financial step back and be with our children. Thank you!!!!

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  20. Dawn Johnson - July 31, 2022 2:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing 🤨

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  21. bibishan - July 31, 2022 2:32 pm

    Beautiful words of pure joy describing a gift from God.

    Reply
  22. Long Stephen - July 31, 2022 2:48 pm

    Fantastic GOD has blessed this Family

    Reply
  23. Judy Klamo - July 31, 2022 2:59 pm

    I look forward to your posts everyday. You remind me of the goodness out in the world. Thank you.

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  24. adm9cacBill E. - July 31, 2022 3:06 pm

    Sometimes the simplest things I. Life are the best……..and free, too

    Reply
  25. L - July 31, 2022 3:21 pm

    This did my heart good! William’s ability to love unconditionally is unique and sacred. This story was a lesson on the good stuff in life for me. Thank you for sharing. You have the gift of observation and knowing when to turn off “the noise”.

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  26. Peggy Slaton - July 31, 2022 4:03 pm

    What a heartwarming story on this Sunday morning.❤️

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  27. Patricia Gibson - July 31, 2022 4:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing that joy this morning ❤️🙏

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  28. Pattymack43 - July 31, 2022 4:15 pm

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  29. Olivia Pugh - July 31, 2022 4:27 pm

    Priorities❤️ Tears again.Thanks Sean ❤️

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  30. BRENDA DAVIS - July 31, 2022 4:30 pm

    SURE A WONDERFUL STORY !!! GOOD LESSON FOR US ALL !!!

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  31. Karen Snyder - July 31, 2022 5:12 pm

    I love love love love love love this! So glad you watched and shared! ❤️

    Reply
  32. WILLIAM E. BROOKS - July 31, 2022 6:04 pm

    thats the point of the whole journey around the sun- to count the blessings + thank you

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  33. Cindy - July 31, 2022 6:15 pm

    Great story and lesson!

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  34. AlaRedClayGirl - July 31, 2022 7:13 pm

    Wonderful story! No matter what some people think, special needs children are definitely a gift from God.

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  35. MAM - July 31, 2022 8:10 pm

    The happy tears flowed. What a beautiful story and a wonderful family. I know a local family like that and their daughter now in her 20s is simply precious. She is ALWAYS smiling and you know that it is always genuine!

    Reply
  36. Linda Moon - July 31, 2022 9:14 pm

    I’m glad you turned off your radio, Sean. I love our family’s “William”. And your daddy is so much like a family father that I loved . Dadgum.

    Reply
  37. Tommy - August 1, 2022 1:53 pm

    So much beauty if life–we just have to stop and see it–like William! Thank you!

    Reply
  38. Sharon Clark Chang - August 1, 2022 3:42 pm

    Well, Sean…

    …you may or may not believe in saints–and by “saints” I mean not simply all of the people who’ve made it to heaven, but also RECOGNIZED saints who’ve made it into the canon of the Catholic Church and are, to varying extents, acknowledged by the Orthodox Church, the Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and some other Protestant faith traditions.

    Whether you do or not doesn’t matter. You STILL need to know about a certain man’s cause that’s being promoted for sainthood right now–and about how he worked to make life better (in fact, make that “POSSIBLE”) for children like baseball-playing William. About how he sacrificed a Nobel Prize in order to proclaim the truth of his findings. About how, no matter how many countries may claim to have “eliminated Down Syndrome” (by eliminating, prior to birth, any child diagnosed with any of its markers), and about how his work continues. Jérôme Lejeune is his name.

    So follow the link provided, after which you may wish to do some further research on your own. Maybe you’d even feel moved to say a prayer that Jérôme Lejeune will one day be recognized as a saint.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%A9r%C3%B4me_Lejeune

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  39. Chasity Davis Ritter. - August 1, 2022 3:56 pm

    I’ve written so many times about the baseball group my daughter gets to play with. The Dream League. It’s a league just for special needs kids of all ages. The get jerseys. They play games. Have team pictures and get trophies at the end of the season. The last few seasons they’ve received championship rings that are amazing!! I wish you could watch a game Sean. It’s what you wrote about times about 40 kiddos. It’s the most wonderful thing ever these kids live for baseball and look forward to it all year. Fall season should be starting up next month and I cannot wait for it either. Thanks for sharing this story today I’m already picturing the smile on my daughter’s face a few weeks from now. We’ve been practicing our catch and throwing all summer!!

    Reply
  40. Suellen Dehnke - August 1, 2022 7:57 pm

    My older two children were “developmentally delayed”. The doctors never could agree exactly on a diagnosis though lately they’re saying I can’t believe no one told you it was cerebral palsy. My son Charlie was always a big kid interested in all sports. Being naive I tried to get him involved in the things all boys do at that age. We tried little league. He was a huge Chicago Cubs fan and still is. The kid was a natural. When he came to the plate the opposing side would say “uh-oh it’s Charlie. Back up, back up” and he would swat that ball to the outfield or beyond. We went to a couple of games and then the coach had a talk with me. He couldn’t quite look me in the eye. He didn’t exactly say not to bring Charlie back because he didn’t fit in there but we both knew what he was saying. Same with soccer. Same with Boy Scouts.

    Reply

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