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At last night’s soccer practice, Simon made me about as proud of him as I’ve ever been. On Thursdays he has a non-team, extra practice that focuses on footwork and agility. That class runs from 5:30 to 6:30, after which we sometimes stick around to watch the adult leagues play.

Our friend Keith plays in one of those leagues, and last night he had a game at 7:00. Simon was stoked. He had a great time at his clinic, socialized with his soccer friend Finn for a bit after, enjoyed a post-practice Gatorade, and then moved down to the big fields to wait for Mr. Keith.

We settled on the bleachers, alone but for one other woman and a young boy who looked to be around 4: I assumed they were the family of one of the players, as the men’s over 40 recreational soccer games don’t get a big audience. Just when the game was ready to start, the little boy turned around to Simon and asked:

“Would you like to go to the little room [a small practice area on the other side of the complex] and play soccer with me?”

My heart was in my mouth. This little boy had no interest in watching the grownups play. He and his mother assumed Simon didn’t either. Being 4, the prospect of playing soccer with an older boy looked like an infinitely better option, and I loved that he had the gumption to ask.

Simon, on the other hand, had been waiting a half-hour for his chance to watch Mr. Keith play, and he never passes up a chance to watch the adults. Plus, he knew we could only stay for about 20 minutes because it was a school night. What the heck was he going to say to this little boy? I’ll tell you what he said:


What I cannot convey is that this was the saddest, most deflated “yes” you ever heard. You could hear his heart break in a single syllable.

I’m not sure if Simon agreed to something he didn’t want to do out of fear he’d hurt the little boy’s feelings or if he somehow understood that he needed to pay forward the multiple kindnesses older boys have shown him over the years. It might have been a little bit of both. Regardless, this is the exact kind of minor sacrifice that Simon, as an only child, is rarely forced into.

Matt and I were very proud when he walked off with the little tyke. Got a good heart, that one does.

Coda: As it happened, the little room was occupied and Simon and the little boy ended up playing in an open area beside it. I sent Matt down to fetch the boys after about 10-15 minutes, so Simon didn’t miss all the action. The game, meanwhile, was surprisingly testy and included a player on the opposing team who was a huge diver. The ref never called him on it, and it got so bad that I started heckling from the stands. This city being the size it is, it turns out that his step-mother teaches at KIP with me.

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