My oldest son Josh is in a summer reading program this year to improve his reading and English skills before the new school year begins. Last week was home school connection week so he was home all week and was given books to read with forms to fill out for each one. We were to read the books together as a family and then answer the questions. Everything went smoothly until we came to the last book.
At first glance, the book “Teammates” by Peter Golenbock appears to simply be another baseball themed children’s book and in some respects it is. On another level though, it has a huge life lesson to teach everyone and anyone, not just elementary students.
This short picture book begins by defining what the “Negro Leagues” were, why they existed and how their lives differed from their white counterparts in the major leagues. It then proceeded to give a brief outline of segregation and the trials that it provided for African Americans at the time.
Branch Rickey, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers during this specific time period is then introduced and the book begins to take a poignant turn. Teammates then discusses how Mr. Rickey wanted to make a difference in the world of baseball by introducing African Americans into the major leagues. In order to do that however, the book discusses how he said “I want a man with the courage not to fight back.” The man who agreed to take on that challenge, was of course baseball great Jackie Robinson.
Children are then lead through the integration of Jackie Robinson into the Brooklyn Dodgers team and how hard it was for him during his first few months. The book explains how one single teammate, Pee Wee Reese, at a baseball game near his hometown stepped out of his short stop position during a game, to join his teammate Jackie Robinson at the first base plate. The crowd had been booing Robinson and Pee Wee Reese decided to take a stand for the man who did nothing but “seek to be treated as an equal.” The book ends with Robinson and Reese with their arms around each others shoulders speaking more than words could ever tell in the middle of that baseball field.
By the last few lines of the book I was in tears. How true to life is this? Not just between one race or another, but also between those of different intelligence levels, classes, beliefs, or who are different in almost any way. No one should ever be made to feel inferior and somewhere along the line, it has become okay to once again chastise and look down upon others who may differ from us. It is natural to be afraid of the unknown, but it is not okay to judge others based upon what you believe to be correct.
Everyone is different, that is what makes this country an amazing place to live. Nothing good was ever achieved through hate. No one ever succeeded by saying “I hate this so much,” but many have succeeded because of their love of something. That doesn’t mean you always have to agree with someone or something, but you do have to let others have their own opinion without objecting as you would not like them objecting to yours. I guess I just don’t understand why some feel that you have to be like them to be worthy or acceptable. Only when we come together and learn how to embrace each others differences will we be able to continue the spirit of this great nation for future generations.
On a lighter note, one of the questions for this book was “What happened at the end of this story?” My son wanted to write down “My mom cried.” 🙂