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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama When No One Is Watching

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Malia Obama probably wasn’t sure if her Dad would make it home from work to watch her soccer game this past Friday night.

He’s been pretty busy lately. But her Mom and her little sister would be there.

The flow of the kids moving the ball down the field, under the lights of a chilly night in October. The families chatting on the sidelines. The starlight glow of downtown Chicago rising up from the north.

Malia Obama at mid field shouts “Mom!” And the smile, grace, and presence of the woman whose eyes never once leave her daughter---no matter who else she speaks to, waves back and sends a radiant smile.

In that one wave and smile, you see hope come alive before your very eyes.

Then just a few minutes after eight; something like a shift in earth’s gravity occurs. To the casual observer, nothing in this scene has changed. That pull of the earth’s power must have been imagined.

The true city dweller will feel it first, before they even see it. Blink your eyes and they appear.

Ringing the shadows of this soccer field are people with guns. Serious people with guns. Like oak trees that move. The phrase, “Not on my watch” flashes through your head.

You have to look hard to make sure they are even there. You never really see a gun. You’re not even sure they are moving. But when you blink your eyes, somehow their positions have changed. Something about the way they just appear calms your breathing. Instinctively you know.

These are the good guys.

With that feeling of true safety pressed firmly in your very soul; you can remember the real secret at the heart of the city: we of the city are just a million small town kid's soccer game scenes all strung together.

So the kids laugh and kick the soccer ball.

Then some guy in a blue cap walks out of the gym next door. Hands in his pocket, face down, by himself. He walks over to Malia’s Mom, who has 3 conversations going on simultaneously with folks on the sidelines.

The quiet guy in the blue cap puts his arm around Malia’s Mom. Shakes hands with a couple of the people. Talks with Malia’s Mom for a minute or two.

Just then a small miracle occurs. The quiet guy in the blue cap who nobody in the crowd of really paid all that much attention to; scrunches down so he is face to face with Malia’s little sister Sasha. He lifts up the brim on the cap.

And then, standing 15 feet behind Sasha you see what she’s seeing up close. You see that smile. That smile that resounds with the very power and the glory of the city lights behind it.

That smile now almost ready to take it's place in American history.

You can’t hear, and are happy not to hear, what he’s saying to his youngest daughter. But you do hear her giggle.

Then the father takes the daughter’s hand. The younger daughter. The one who is not in the game. The one who by all rights and purposes and measures any of us know at this time in our history---was destined not to get a lot of attention tonight.

They move back in the shadows, behind the sideline crowd. Seen only by that quiet show of force here to keep them absolutely safe.

Then the miracle: they have a foot race.

While the soccer game is still going on. Just the two of them. Sasha and her Dad take off together, both running at full speed, as fast and then faster than either of them could ever imagine. Sasha laughing, and laughing at the finish line. Her Dad swoops down and picks her up.

Then that smile. This time only for his daughter.

No one else was looking. It was just for her.

His youngest daughter’s giggle. It’s the music of his promise to make sure that everyone’s included.

And this past Friday night in Chicago: Malia Obama’s team won the game.

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