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"Unified" Basketball indeed!

2 days ago I attended a basketball game in Boston College. This is an extremely different game from what you and I have ever seen. This tournament is called "Unified" Basketball tournament. Like the name suggests, much more than the actual game, this game promotes unity.The teams had children who had various special abilities, ranging from Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy to Down Syndrome and Autism. Our son has Cerebral Palsy and we had never imagined in our life that we would ever see him play a physical sport. But this is not what moved me to tears. It was the maturity, understanding and kindness these children displayed. There was a basket hanging under the actual hoop for players to use who cannot shoot high. The opponent team actually held the basket in place for the players to shoot. And if the player doesn't make the basket in his first try, they let him/her try again. And they did this selflessly without even having the coaches prompt them. There was one child from the opposite school who was particularly competitive and he tried to grab the ball from the opponent team. Totally not his fault because that is how the actual game is played! Let's call him 33 (his jersey number) for convenience. The coaches kept telling 33 to be sporting but his teammates instead of reprimanding him, when they caught the ball, they ran over and handed it to 33, so that he can shoot. They did this twice and the third time 33 told his teammates to shoot instead. Such a simple gesture that shows, if one of us is doing wrong, you correct them with kindness. Something which we "normal" people can never understand or accept! Cheering for your opponent, making space for their needs, how do these things come so easily to the simple mind? I think it's because their brain might be wired wrong, but their heart's in the right place...!

It was so refreshing to see the entire school, even the school principal coming and cheering for the team. They gave this team and the game the same importance as their main team warranted. I am a stroke survivor and my husband keeps telling me that we should return to India so that we have family to help us. But THIS is why I insist on living here. Not dissing my country, but I know my son will not get these opportunities back home. Yes, we are immigrants in your country, but each one of us has a reason why we are here.

Goodness, kindness is all really a movement. One starts and each one pays it forward. All we can wish for is raising our kids to not aim for financial success in their life but aim to be a good human.

I felt so proud to see my son passing the ball and not aiming for the basket when he got the ball in his hand. I’m so happy that every parent in that auditorium cheered for every kid who tried to play regardless of which school they belonged to.

I’m a proud parent and so grateful that my child is growing in such an environment where there’s no competition to be numero uno but be one amongst a community that helps and supports each other to grow.

A huge shoutout to Oak Hill Middle School, Newton, Massachusetts!


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