7.8 seconds is not a lot of time. I can’t Name That Tune in 7.8 seconds. I’m pretty sure I can’t sign my name legibly in that amount of time. It would take me longer to fix myself a cup of coffee. I can’t write a blog post or grade an essay in 7.8 seconds, even if it sometimes seems like that’s all the time I’ve taken. 7.8 seconds is not enough time to vacuum the floor, unload the dishwasher, or decide what to wear. Basically, it’s not enough time to do anything with any kind of significance whatsoever.
At least that’s what I thought until last night.
Louie plays basketball. All 5’4 of him. (Have I ever mentioned he’s darling? He is. He would die if he knew I called him ‘darling,’ but I guess that would be good punishment for finding my blog!) Anyway, he’s a freshman in high school, and 5’4 is pretty short for a basketball player, so he’s got the cards stacked against him a bit.
He never lets that discourage him. He practices constantly for this: high school basketball. This is The Big Show. He knows that every time he steps out on that court now he’s putting it all out there in the hopes that, if he does well enough in his high school career, he can break a record (it’s the assists record he’s after). He wants his name etched on the boards hanging outside the gym forever – or at least until the next guy comes along.
Usually freshmen play on the freshmen team. But, the stars aligned in the Universe for him this year. A family of three basketball-playing boys moved out of the district, leaving the Varsity team in dire straights. There would be a chance, if he worked really hard, he could get himself a spot on the JV team. And work, he did. If he wasn’t swinging a baseball bat this summer, he was bouncing a basketball or shooting foul shots. Last New Year’s Eve we had to drag him in the house at 1:30 am. He was determined to shoot 100 foul shots in a row without missing.
After tryouts this year, Louie not only landed himself a spot as the starting point guard on JV, but he also got the honor of dressing for the Varsity game.
He brought home the uniform and tried it on for us. The shooting shirt was a Men’s size large (he gets what’s left; he’s a freshman). The shirt hangs down to his knees. (But he looks darling in it.) On the way to the school, he sat in the passenger’s seat wringing his hands.
“You nervous, bud?” I ask him.
“You know you probably won’t get in, right? You’ve got two other upperclassmen playing the same position ahead of you. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to play. It’s an honor to dress.” I reminded him.
“I know. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. I mean, if I go in it will be because the game doesn’t matter anymore. Either we will be up by a ton or losing. If I get in, I’m just gonna go hard. Make it count, if I can,” he tells me.
It was a close game for four quarters. Everyone on the bench had been rotated in and out during most of the game, everyone except Louie. It was okay, though. Every time a teammate came to the bench, Lou clapped him on the back. He would yell for his team, pumping his fist and clapping when we would regain a lead. He’s a team player. He got that it wasn’t his time to go in.
With 7.8 seconds left, our team up by 16 points, the coach sat down the starters and cleared the bench. Lou was finally getting his chance. The opposing team was inbounding the ball and Lou was on their point guard. The guard dribbled toward half court and Lou did a stutter step to the side, reaching in. He got a hand on the ball and sent it bouncing away from their guard out of bounds. Our ball. In two seconds the game was over.
There was no change of score or buzzer-beating shot to win the game, but in 7.8 seconds that kid forced a turnover. He made something happen. It wasn’t a big difference, but it was something.
In a time when everyone (including me) wants instant gratification and an immediate reward for hard work, it would be easy to be discouraged or frustrated to spend nearly an entire basketball game on the bench, to be the only guy still sitting there, not having broken a sweat all night, one minute left in the game. I would’ve been.
But not Lou. He didn’t care. When he got that tug on his jersey to hit the floor with seconds left in the game, his face lit up. He wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by, even if it was just a little one.
I can say that I regularly look at my time – ten minutes here or there, even an hour or two, and feel like I can’t accomplish anything in that time. But now I realize that in letting these little moments slip away, I’m missing opportunities. It doesn’t take much time to write someone an encouraging note or drop a card in the mail. It doesn’t take all that much time to execute one little act of kindness like holding open a door or letting someone with only two items check out before me at the store. But I don’t often grab hold of those opportunities.
I think I will take advantage of an opportunity today, though, when I see one. Last night a 15 year old kid and 7.8 seconds of hustle reminded me that every second counts.