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Sunday, January 15, 2017

And Now For Some Good News.

My wife works in a high school. One of the students was a gifted basketball player. A mountainous, hulking man of a student, strong, masculine, just plain big. According to my wife he was always very polite, and respectful.

Another student in the school is a special needs student. His handicap is profound, twisting his arms and legs into odd angles and strange movements. He stutters, and has trouble coordinating his movements. He loves basketball, he wants nothing more than to be able to play. And he was doomed, by cruel, terrible fate to be disappointed in so simple an ambition. He watched basketball, he talked about basketball, and according to rumors his bedroom walls are adorned with posters of NBA players.

In one of the oddest twists of fate imaginable, a turn of events almost too hokey for Disney, a student was being mean to the handicapped student (why does that happen, and it always happens that way, doesn’t it? this poor child doesn’t  have enough problems without adding a heartless bastard to the debit column) and the basketball player came over and picked up the bully, held him up against the wall and said “leave him alone, he is my friend.” Oddly enough, he was.

Now the basketball star is off to college, playing at high level at a school where playing at a high level is expected, demanded. He still stays in contact with his “friend.” Even helping him get tickets to a game. A gentle giant, a man who gives back. A true star in a world full of ESPN manufactured personalities.

There is still something in this story that brings a tear to my eye. In a world gone mad with self aggrandizement here is a young man who took the time to give to someone who needed. It is easy to find stories about people who don’t give a damn about anybody. Easy to find examples of people willing to step on someone small and meek just so they can reach the good stuff on the top shelf. It is easy to think nobody cares about anything, society is a waste, humanity not so humane.

Very few people at the school know this story, it was not for publicity. My wife knows because she cares, she talks to all kids and they tell her things, sometimes heartbreaking, terrible things. But once in a while she will find a true gem. “Where you find the darkest avenue, there you’ll find the brightest jewel.”* And knowing my predilection for darkness she shares them with me. And the handicapped student shared this story with her, excitedly. Here was a basketball player, a star player, who was his friend.

He did not do this for any acknowledgement, just because it was the right thing to do, and still do, he is still doing it. I admit that college athletics is more about athletics and the obscene profits it generates, than anything to do with the positive impact of college, or the careful molding  and nurturing of young people, but sometimes, if you look hard enough you can find something bright and wonderful.

*Richard Thompson, Cooksferry Queen