Wow! There is more good news about young people thanks to reports from CBS News and The Huffington Post (click here for the story and video)!
Here is the breakdown: The students at Olivet Middle School in Olivet, Michigan have a special young man on their team named Keith Orr. Keith is learning disabled and is seen in the video walking through school asking for a hug from everyone he encounters. The football team decided that Keith needed to know what it was like to have a touchdown, what it was like to have everyone cheering for him. And so, behind their coaches’ backs, they schemed a way to get Keith over the goal line.
In the video you see a football player break away from the pack, wide open, rushing toward the goal line, when he suddenly goes down at the one yard line. He appears to have just slipped… and the crowd can be heard grumbling about it. An unnamed man’s voice is heard yelling, “Oh c’mon! Really!”
But then the amazing thing happens. The team lines up on the one yard line and pushes forward, but the ball is handed to Keith and a little huddle of middle school football players gather around him, sheltering him, protecting him, and guiding him across the goal line.
The whole story was amazing. A young man, who for all we know might have a future in football, sacrifices a touchdown so that someone else can have the glory.
It is touching and heartwarming. You can’t help but smile when Keith describes the feeling as “AWESOME!”
But it was something that happened at the end of the video, not to Keith Orr, but to one of the other football players that moved me the most.
Justice Miller is the good-looking, well-spoken kid with the straight teeth and perfect complexion who would normally be the antithesis of the socially awkward, but loving Keith Orr with all his boundary issues.
Justice admits that he would have never even thought of something like arranging a play to get Keith across the goal line… and yet, when it happened, it changed Justice. With tears in his eyes he confesses that he went from being the sort of kid who only thought of himself and his friends to thinking about how to be a better person to everyone else and how to make other people happy.
I don’t know about you, but my middle school years (actually, I went to junior high) were nearly unbearable. We were selfish and self-centered back then. We were mean and often times cruel to each other. We were beginning to grow up, beginning to experience the onset of very adult feelings and desires, but at the same time too emotionally immature to be able to handle most of them.
We fell in love at the blink of an eye and our hearts were broken as quickly. We knew how to say something that in a single word would cut to the quick. And those popular kids seemed to navigate the system, always at the top of the pecking order, never realizing that those of us beneath them might be hurting.
But as Justice Miller made his confession, with tears pouring down his cheeks, I cried with him… because I was reminded of something else about my adolescent years: I was innocent with the world at my fingertips.
Maybe Justice wasn’t the kid who came up with the idea in the first place, but he certainly benefited from it.
Someone allowed love and compassion to dictate to them how to interact with other people… even when it would fly in the face of the way the game is supposed to be played. And that moment of love and compassion touched everyone around him. Justice Miller is proof of that influence.
Young people are dealing with a lot of heavy stuff in this world. And as much as we might accuse them of living a life of luxury, many of those luxury items make their lives more difficult. Sure, we didn’t have smart phones when we were in junior high… but we also didn’t have the temptations of sexting and the threat of having embarrassing photos or videos distributed across the globe with the push of a button.
Kids these days have a hard time, and they are struggling the same as we were to find a path in life. They are at an influential point in their lives, and they are often looking to us for some sort of guidance whether they want to admit it or not.
They take their cues from us… when we make snide comments about each other, insult people behind their backs, ridicule people who don’t measure up to our standards, and willing walk all over everyone who can’t keep up with the crowd, we send the message to our youth that this is acceptable.
If you ever want to know how we are measuring up as a society go to your local middle school and observe–they are a mirror of us. They are seeing what we are doing and living it out in their lives in a way that sometimes offends us. But it offends us the way a mirror does, by revealing what we really look like as opposed to what we hope we look like.
And when I watched the Olivet Middle School football team make a huge gesture of love and compassion, when I saw the tears streaming down Justice Miller’s face and his heartfelt confession of selfishness turned to love, I knew that I was looking at hope for the future.
Our youth want to be good men and women. They are looking to us to set the example–so if in a world where adults can scream insults when a kid slips on the one yard line our youth are still finding enough guidance to choose a path of love, imagine how much more good could be done if we all agreed to live into the same lesson young Justice Miller learned that day. Imagine what our future could be like if we all lived that mission of compassion!
Normally, when I see a child crying, my heart breaks because I fear for our future… but when I saw Justice Miller crying, I knew that we have a future of hope. And I want to be a part of that.