• Jerrad Hardin

Lucy vs. COVID-19

My name is Lucy Wingo, and there are twelve reasons why I know Covid-19 will ultimately lose.

Our high school team plays in a small county in the state of Kentucky, and we don't win many games. Our school has only had softball for three years. Papaw says it's because the county is poor, and extra-curricular activities are expensive.

Anyway, folks around here are what we call hardscrabble. People are tough. They have to be, or they wouldn't make it. The opioid crisis hit our county hard. Add to it, most of the local mines closed, leaving folks with little to celebrate. Papaw said our softball team gave everybody something to cheer for – and not because we won games – but because we embodied the American Spirit.

That leads me to reason #1 – Jo Jo – she's our first baseman. When her cousin lost her parents in an auto accident, Jo Jo organized a fundraiser to pay for the funerals. She then spent every night consoling her cousin until she convinced her that life would go on. Jo Jo showed great LEADERSHIP in a terrible situation. Then there's Debbie, and she's reason #2. She plays second base. Debbie has a hard time speaking without a stutter – but that didn't stop her from joining the Speech Team. At first, others laughed at her, but eventually, when kids started seeing how much COURAGE it took Debbie to overcome her stuttering, they stood and applauded. Bonnie plays third, and she's my #3 reason. Nobody messes with Bon. She's our team's enforcer. Rumor has it that her daddy was rough with her. She never told anyone about it, but I believe it's true because I've seen the scars on her back and her old man loses his temper at all the games. Bonnie isn't anything like her old man, but she makes sure she's got our back. Bonnie is TOUGH, and I feel safe with her around. Scoops is our shortstop – she's #4. She nearly died as a baby. To hear it, she was little enough to fit in the palm of an average hand, born way too early. On account, her mamma got strung out on the dope, and Scoops is just lucky to have made it. Her mamma's good now – both are perfect examples of what it means to be RESILIENT. My reason #5 is Ash – she's our pitcher. We didn't have anyone on the team who could pitch until she volunteered to learn. Nobody in town knew how to teach her. She'd have to go to Lexington to get lessons, but her family couldn't afford to do that. Instead, she read books, watched videos online at the library, and taught herself. I call that being RESOURCEFUL. Olivia catches, and she's reason #6. You wouldn't know it now, but she used to make herself throw up after every meal. Olivia lacked self-confidence. It took a lot of SUPPORT and help from friends and family, but now Olivia accepts who she is, and most days, I think she sees herself as pretty. In leftfield, you'll find my #7, Rosa. Papaw said her folks brought her here from Guatemala when she was little. Her parents work hard but live in the shadows. They're afraid somebody might turn them in for being in the country illegally. But Papaw says they shouldn't worry. The community respects the SACRIFICE Rosa's parents have made, and her family is now part of the town's fabric. #8 is Stephanie, and she's our centerfielder. She's a teenage mother. Her daughter, Sophie, now almost a year old, is our team's good luck charm. Steph's parents and boyfriend both pressured her not to have the baby, but she refused to listen to them. Instead, Stephanie got a job and worked the night shift at McDonald's out by the interstate. And she never misses a minute of school, softball, or work. She's living proof that PERSEVERANCE can overcome anything. My #9 reason is Jessica – she plays rightfield. Her daddy left her mamma shortly after the Roosevelt Mine closed about a year ago. They had a big house back then but now live in an old trailer down by the park. But to hear her talk, it's may as well be a mansion. Jessica has so much PRIDE in who she is and not where she lives. I admire that about her. Reason #10 – well, that's my coach. Leon Dudipper. He has a funny name, smokes behind the dugout in-between innings, and I'm pretty sure he shotguns a cold one or two before the game. He may not sound like much to you, but to us, he's everything. Leon is the most unselfish person I know. He cut his hours at the mill to coach us and I know he needs the money. His wife is in a wheelchair and suffers from Lupus. Papaw asked him one day why he took the job with money being so tight, and Mr. Leon told him it was because he and Miss Sally couldn't have any kids – even though they tried and got close many times. He sees all of us as FAMILY – the kids he never could have. Reason #11 – I clumped a bunch of girls together here. Six in total, to be exact. They sit on the bench. But they don't complain. Coach finds ways to keep them engaged. They all feel like whatever little jobs they do makes a difference to the team. Some keep the water jug filled, some organize the equipment, and they all cheer. Their POSITIVE outlook makes everyone smile even when we're losing big.

Reason #12 – well, that's me. I'm the team manager. Mr. Leon says I'm good for the job since I've been taking care of PaPaw now going on two years. He doesn't breathe so good anymore, and lately, he won't get out of his bed but one or two times a day. Papaw's outlived the time the doctor told him by almost a year now. I figure his lung cancer is from too many years in the belly of Roosevelt Mine. Some days I feel like it's my fault. Papaw worked all those extra years to pay for my treatments. I don't know my mamma or my daddy. All I've ever known is Papaw. When I was a baby, my parents abandoned me after the heart transplant. I guess neither wanted or could afford the responsibility. Papaw found me on his doorstep in a baby carrier and took me in. I've also outlived the predictions. My transplanted heart is still beating, but it can't keep up with my growing body. Someday soon, Papaw and I will both be gone, but we have FAITH the U.S., and the world will prevail over the Coronavirus. It boils down to simple reasoning - this softball team, a bunch of nobody's, is filled full of everything our country needs to whip the tar out of COVID-19. It just proves you don't have to be anything special to make a difference, you just have to be aware of and inspired by what those around you can share and then put every ounce of it into fighting this invisible enemy. Because when we pool our resources and work together, there's nothing that can stop us.

Jerrad Hardin is an award-winning coach and best-selling author. To learn more about Jerrad, please visit: www.jerradhardin.com

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