The Surprising and Beautiful Empathy of a Middle School Football Team
2013/11/25 15:51

Last month, something beautiful happened on a Michigan football field, and it wasn’t simply a brilliant play. The players of Olivet Middle School conspired to make the day for their learning disabled new teammate, Keith Orr, by setting him up for sweet victory and literally (and figuratively) handing him the ball.

Without the knowledge or assistance of their coach, these young boys purposely took a knee at the one-yard line so that Keith could be the recipient of a touchdown pass on the next play. “Nothing can really explain getting a touchdown when you’ve never had one before,” said teammate and co-conspirator Justice Miller, explaining the joy they wanted to bestow upon their new friend.

We have a tendency to dismiss youth culture as cruel and shallow, especially in the internet age. These boys have completely flipped that idea on its head, showing kindness and compassion in a way most adults would find astonishing. Keith struggles with boundaries – often hugging friends and classmates any chance he gets – in the sweetest manner possible. These boys recognized that their new addition needed a boost of recognition and a truly positive experience at school. The boys delivered above and beyond on their secret promise, making Keith into a school celebrity. “Because he’s never been cool or popular, and he went from being, like, pretty much a nobody to making everyone’s day,” said Justice.

“I kind of went from being somebody who mostly cared about myself and my friends to caring about everyone and trying to make everyone’s day and everyone’s life,” he continued. Here, Justice highlights possibly the most important outcome of this bold act of kindness. Sharing happiness with others allows it to blossom within us. Recognizing this has changed these boys’ lives for the better, and given the adult world a beautiful example of thoughtful compassion we could all learn from.

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