Here's the family of the woman who got bonked on the head.
With an explosion of sound and fury, the baseball crashed into the seat directly in front of me, ricocheted back out in the direction from which it came, and smacked the lady sitting in front of me directly on the side of her head. Wincing in pain, she brought her fingers up to touch her ear lobe, and I could tell that the back of her earring had been jammed into the tender skin behind her ear. Poor mama was in a lot of pain, and her husband and two little boys ignored the loose ball rolling around at their feet and tried to comfort her.
This, one might presume, is all a part of major league baseball. If you're going to sit out in center field, best be prepared for the home run ball.
But we were between innings when this mishap occurred. No one was at bat. So what happened?
And here's the center fielder who lobbed a grenade into the stands. He felt bad too.
Suddenly, a man came rushing down the stairs from his seat behind us to catch the loose ball. As he triumphantly scooped it up, he looked at the woman in pain and realized she had been hit.
Then I noticed the center fielder, who had just completed his between-innings catch-and-throw session with his fellow outfielders, was staring up at our little corner of the stands. And I put the pieces together.
The man behind us had been hollering in a good-natured way to the center fielder, asking him to toss up a practice ball. The center fielder, who currently plays for the opposing team, used to be a hometown Mariner and was apparently feeling playful and happy to appease an old fan.
So as the inning break was coming to an end, the center fielder fired the ball up to the man behind us. But his super-powered throw fell short of his target, and that's how the ball came to crash into the seats in front of us. At that instant, the woman was busy with important between-inning duties, negotiating how an order of cheese nachos was to be shared between her two boys, so she was not alert to the incoming baseball.
And by the way, she was increasingly not happy with this baseball to the noggin situation. She was, in a word, fuming.
As he gleefully scooped up the ball, the man from behind us quickly put all this together. His face shifted rapidly from celebration to chastened, and with a quick, gentle gesture, he put one hand on the woman's older son's shoulder and handed him the treasured baseball. He quietly apologized to the woman and her man, then beat a hasty retreat back up the stairs to his seat.
But he wasn't done yet.
At the end of the next inning, our neighbor came back down the stairs and approached the family once again. This time, he repeated his apology in a clear, sincere voice, asking if there was anything he could do to help the woman.
Still angry and tight-lipped, she said no. He respectfully said goodbye and disappeared behind us, this time for good.
* * * * *
"I'm going to be at least an hour late tonight," my husband intoned. Still sitting at his desk in the office, he explained, "One of my staff had a really bad day today. Just as I was trying to leave, she came in and wanted to unload some of her frustrations. So I needed to stay and listen."
Hmm. Interesting. My husband has many fine qualities and I imagine him to be a fair and respectful boss. But listening to female subordinates vent their troubles does not strike me as an area of natural giftedness for him.
I was, in a word, intrigued.
"That's fine," I led. "So how did that go?"
"Oh, fine," he responded airily, "I showed her my card."
"Your card? I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'll show you tonight."
After dinner, when the dishes were cleared away and we were just about to sit down and watch another record-breaking round of Jeopardy, he made a quick lap to the far end of the house where he keeps his backpack, and then came back into the room.
"Here's that card I was telling you about."
And this is what he handed me:
I find it so interesting that whoever gave this card to my husband chose to not sign it.
But he seems to appreciate it just as it is.
"Where did you get this?" I asked.
"Oh, someone gave it to me once when I was dealing with a real mess. So I kept it and I show it to other people from time to time."
"Did it help your person today?"
"I think so. She smiled when I showed her."
* * * * *
Within twenty-four hours, these two stories collided in my head and brought forth a single, simple thought: compassion comes in many colors, and while we might not always appreciate the particular shade of compassion offered to us, it's always nice to recognize when someone is simply trying to help us feel better.