Robert sighed painfully as he watched his classmates play basketball. He felt bad because he always wanted to be a famous player one day. He aspired to represent his school in every tournament, but no one took him seriously.
People always considered him a mere spectator, because no one thought he could play or run with a prosthetic leg. Robert was born with a deformity in his leg. This forced him to have an amputation.
He looked at the players with tears in his eyes, hoping that they would invite him to join them or replace someone. But they thought their team would lose if Robert played for them.
At the end of gym class, Robert congratulated the winners of the game. Then he grabbed his backpack and crutch and slowly made his way to the nearest bus stop.
Five minutes later, a bus arrived. Robert waited for the others to get on because he didn’t want anyone bitching or calling him a straggler when he got on. He wasn’t insecure, but he hated it when some people made derogatory comments behind his back.
He walked over to the seat reserved for the disabled. It was already reserved for Robert because the driver and conductor knew him well. He was a regular.
The driver also knew Robert’s mother, Rebecca, well. He knew her struggles as a single mother abandoned by the man she trusted and loved, her ex-husband Harry.
Five years ago, Robert and his mother Rebecca’s life was completely different. Robert’s father, Harry, was still living at home with them. Much more than a father figure, Harry was his son’s role model and inspiration.
Robert liked to boast, “My dad is my hero!”
He loved to play basketball with his dad in the small court in front of their house. That’s how he began to dream of one day becoming a basketball player, but not just any basketball player – Robert wanted to become a famous player.
Life was peaceful and happy. The family made do with what little they had. But Harry’s dedication to his family faded when he got a promotion and was transferred overseas. He forgot that he was already married and had a 7-year-old child when he fell in love with another woman.
Harry did not hesitate to reveal his extramarital affair to Rebecca. He broke her heart and divorced her soon after.
Robert lost a significant part of his childhood with his father. He felt lonely and unloved, but he pulled himself together for his mother’s sake.
“You need to go to school and study hard. Don’t let any obstacle stop you from achieving your dreams,” she often told Robert. These words were enough to keep his passion alive.
It had been five years since Robert had seen his father. Harry kept in touch with his son only through the child support he paid. He had married his girlfriend, who gave him two children.
Harry gave his new family a fairy-tale dream life, but he abandoned his ex-wife and his son, who revered and loved him.
When the bus went over a speed bump, Robert came back to reality. It stopped at the next station to pick up passengers, and a woman was the last in line. She was holding a stroller in which her baby was fast asleep.
Robert watched the woman push her stroller, and looked for help to lift her into the bus. But the passengers, mostly men, pretended not to notice. So the little boy went to her help without thinking.
“Miss, hold the other side, careful…gently…gently,” he said as he grabbed the stroller and pulled it inside. Then the driver helped him, and within minutes the stroller was inside.
“Thank you so much!” the woman smiled. She didn’t know Robert was having trouble walking until she saw him limping to his seat. She pushed the stroller closer to him, and he stood up. “Would you like to sit down, miss?” he asked her. “There’s still a little place. Please sit down.”
The woman was touched by the kindness of this strange boy, and introduced herself as Sandra. She saw a small basketball keychain on the zipper of his backpack, and asked him, “Do you like playing basketball?”.
A small spark of joy lit up Robert’s eyes, and he exclaimed:
“I love basketball. I want to be a national level player. I used to play every day with my dad. But I don’t have anyone to coach me since he left us.”
“He left you?” asked Sandra, concerned.
Robert let out a pained sigh. He told her about his parents’ divorce and his struggles to make his school’s basketball team.
“My husband was a basketball player too,” Sandra said. When she got to her stop, she started to get off the bus, and Robert got up to help her, but she smiled and refused.
“I can get off, dear. My mother-in-law is waiting for me at the stop. Thank you so much! ” she said.
Robert waved goodbye and prepared to get off at the next stop, where his house was.
The next day was a Saturday, and Robert’s school was closed. He was watching NBA games on his mother’s laptop when someone knocked on the door. Robert grabbed his crutch to open it, and saw a tall, muscular man standing on his porch with a basketball.
Robert was stunned and asked, “Sir, how can I help you?”
The man smiled and gave Robert the ball and a pair of loose shorts and jerseys.
“Champ, get ready for practice. I’ve come to train you. Don’t you want to represent your school in the next state game?!”
Robert could not believe his eyes and burst into tears. It turned out that the man was Jacob, Sandra’s husband. He was a former military man and a former basketball player. Sandra had told him about Robert, and they had found the boy’s address at his school the day before.
Jacob coached Robert three times a week for six months. He taught the boy new game tactics to control the ball and his speed. In addition to coaching Robert, Jacob motivated him to overcome all obstacles.
“Winners aren’t born. We make them,” he often told him.
Six months later, Robert played a test game at school and was selected to represent his team in the interscholastic tournament. Boys who had shunned him because of his disability flocked to support him. They cheered for Robert and his flawless baskets on the court. They all wanted to be friends with him because they understood that he was an asset to their team.
A few months later, Robert represented his school in an inter-school game. His father, Harry, learned of his son’s popularity in sports and attended the event. He felt guilty for neglecting Robert. Harry encouraged him, met with him after his winning game and apologized.
From that point on, Robert no longer felt the void left by his father. They met often, and Harry even accompanied Robert to his tournaments.
Despite his newfound fame and friendship, Robert remained loyal to Sandra and Jacob. He never forgot their help and always considered them his guardian angels who led him from darkness to light.