Missy grinned as I scrambled to the basketball and ran it back to her. Our fall day in Carr Park had turned out to be perfect for an afternoon of shooting hoops.
Or … well, shooting something.
From her wheelchair, Missy gleefully examined the target. (With her cerebral palsy, it’s easier and safer for her to shoot while sitting instead of standing.) After a moment, she reared back and let fly with an energy Michael Jordan would have envied.
Jordan, of course, specialized in “nothing but net.” Missy’s aim was a little different.
Shot after shot sailed at the metal goalpost. Lacking elevation but never determination, Missy had decided to shoot for a target at her own level. And more often than not, she was hitting it.
In the 10 years since Heather and I became Missy’s guardians, we’ve learned a lot about her abilities. We know she can remember and follow instructions (when she feels like it), that she can follow along with the plot of a novel and keep track of the characters, that she can bowl a 100 game and dance up a storm and write a recognizable “M” when she works at it.
We also know, of course, that there are limits and accommodations. Missy uses a ramp to bowl. She solves 50-piece puzzles instead of 500-piece ones. She often dances with a partner or a piece of furniture nearby to keep her balance.
In short, she likes many of the same things that everyone else likes, but she often enjoys them in a different way. Her targets are at a different level, one that engages her and even pushes her, but without being cruel.
That’s important. And not just for Missy.
We’re often encouraged to dream big, set our aims high, shoot for major goals, whether in the personal realm or the wider world. And there’ nothing wrong with doing any of that … until it becomes a source of intimidation instead of inspiration. Until you reach a point where, because you can’t do everything, you don’t do anything.
But there’s nothing wrong with setting the bar to where you are.
Writers know this. When the fantasy author Terry Pratchett started out, he wrote just 400 words a day for his first three years. That’s about as long as everything you’ve read in today’s column so far. By the time Pratchett died, he’d written over 50 books.
Chronic pain patients know it. There’s a saying that’s gone around social media that “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” The usual example is that if your pain and fatigue won’t even let you spend two minutes brushing your teeth, it’s worth doing it for 30 seconds instead – because it’s still better than not doing it at all.
Leaders and dreamers throughout the ages have known it, winning the small battles that can be won now, even when the larger vision still seems so far ahead.
You set your aim. You give it what you’ve got. And if what you have today isn’t what Stephen King has, or LeBron James, or even a Disney Channel extra, it’s still yours. And you’re still doing it. That matters.
When the goalpost is what you can hit, hit it hard. And keep shooting.
The target may change. The sights may rise. And even if they don’t, if it moves you forward or gives you pleasure or tests what you can do – then it’s a win.
So have a ball. And if you have it on the Carr Park courts … well, just watch out for flying objects, OK?