Since my mum died last spring and my heart is crushed, I have written, visited, and thought quite a bit about California’s Inland Empire, where I was born and raised. Where we lived, together. As the on-and-off murder capital of America, one of the few sources of pride in the area is being the longtime host to the West Region of Little League Baseball.

“This reminds us of who we really are,” said a friend the other day whilst showing me the video of a young fella in this year’s Little League World Series on her phone. The kid, who was at bat, had been beaned hard, took his base, and ran to the pitcher’s mound not to slug but to hug the pitcher who had not meant to hit him. I am pretty sure you have seen it by now. It is a gorgeous moment and a teachable one.

Kids, huh? Mine are always teaching me.

I missed that moment live, but I’ve been watching the Little League World Series — boys and girls — in a sort of zen-like state of fascination over how these kids and officials treat one another. Oh, they are competitive, but there is an unmistakable love of game and gratitude underlying it all. All.

Like my smart friend said, they are reminding us of who we really are. And we very much need said reminder. God bless them all.

Getting back to my mum for a sec, she shoved the reluctant me into Little League at a very young age. I loved pulling out my little “Blues” tee shirt late in the school day to go and play at a very mediocre level after school. My elementary school bathroom was suddenly the Angels’ dugout.

And then there was Camp. We had Camp at Little League West Region headquarters! We would go there and play at the beautiful stadium for two full weeks, and it was divine. One summer, I was unwittingly rooming with Tony Orlando’s son, and then came parent’s day and he himself rolls in…whole different story. But a cool one.

I still sucked, by the way. But I was happy.

Amazing times for a young person. It was a very different day, but I won’t give it up.

I am not entirely sure what my point is here beyond recalling sweet times. I guess it is understanding. Civility. We have moved beyond it, and we must move back toward it.

My friend’s point is stuck on me. To paraphrase, “Who are we, really?” Are we winners or are we losers? Winners look at one another. Winners throw smiles when they see another human being. Winners throw a hug when another inadvertently causes harm. Losers drive like maniacs. They do not smile at one another. They beat up coaches and yell at kids. And so forth.

This is, then, the point. Civility and understanding with at least a little touch of love. This is exactly what we are getting from the Little League World Series. As such, it is everything. And we are wise to pay attention. And not be losers.

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