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January 14, 2003

The Red-Headed Kid.

Last fall, during soccer season, my kids' team played another team who had a really outstanding player. He was a fiery red-head about 9-years old who seemed to love running himself ragged. He played the game at 150%. It didn't matter where the ball was kicked, in very short time he was there. And he never stopped. And when he kicked he used his whole body and bopped that ball harder and further than most grown-ups could kick it. He also was quite a stinker. During one break I saw him with, what I assume were his parents, teasing them the whole time.

The coach played him the entire game, and the kid never seemed to get tired. As far as the game went, my kids' team lost by quite a margin.

Now, in all honesty, the only difference between this kid, and the rest of the kids was that he tried harder. The other kids jogged when they should have ran and walked when they should have jogged. They kicked the ball with that lazy abandon that seems to give the impression they think the ball's supposed to do most of the work. When the ball goes flying down the field, they stand and watch it for awhile before starting their drooped shouldered jog down to the action. It was all a matter of effort. All of the kids had the ability, most just didn't think the effort was worth it. But they all claimed to want to win. They all claimed to be trying their hardest.

Some of the parents weren't particularly pleased with the red-head. He made all the other kids (even those on his own team) look bad. More often than not he was whipping around some slow moving kid who was waiting for the ball to come to her, to take the ball and make another point.

I tried to get my kids to watch this kid, and see how much effort he put into playing, but they didn't seem overly enthused. When they lost (as they did many of their games) it wasn't a big let down, because they'd really not ventured much. That's soccer to typical American 8 and 9-year olds.

It occurred to me later that that was really a good illustration of how the world looks at America. America has success, wealth and prosperity, because we try. We try because we know that working hard pays off. Now, interestingly enough, the same people who won't try in other countries, will move here and work their butts of and become successful. The difference is that part of our "work" is our political involvement. What people generally put up with in the way of governments in most countries, we'd put a stop too before it got halfway off the ground. Our Forefathers built us a Republic, and we've learned the basic rules to keep it: Make your politicians accountable, and don't let anyone interfere with your ability to continue to do so.  That simple concept is lost on the vast majority of people outside the US. But that's exactly why America is so prosperous. Just like that red-headed 9-year old that got it, when it came to effort and soccer, we get it, when it comes to how to keep our nation free and prosperous.

Keeping those rules requires an effort. Sometimes it require your safety, or even your life, so that your loved ones can enjoy freedom. Our willingness to die for theses simple principles is the cornerstone of why we remain prosperous. But we still can't convince most of the rest of the world that these principles are important. They tolerate corrupt leaders who keep them poor, and kill them willy-nilly, and can't understand why we are so hung up over "little things" like freedom of the press.

Hopefully we Americans won't forget the importance of these little things, and won't make the mistake of sacrificing them for the illusion of safety.


Posted by Jack Lewis at January 14, 2003 03:57 PM