As they always do, the Elizabethtown High School football team gathered on the field Oct. 25 and around head coach Mark Brown to briefly talk about that night’s district championship clinching overtime win over Bardstown.
Circled by his players and coaching staff, he concluded as the group, holding hands in unison said The Lord’s Prayer.
I stood by, Red Sox hat off my head and by my side, and joined in. By the time the 40-some people of all ages had reached “art in heaven,” a hand reached up from my right. It was the left hand of No. 14, I noticed. He’s Panther sophomore T.J. Allen. He saw me without a hand to hold and he didn’t want me to feel left out, I suppose.
It was a small gesture, yet one I have thought about a lot since it happened.
Allen didn’t have the best game of his young career against Bardstown that night based on the screaming he received from coaches along the sideline.
He had missed some blocking assignments and apparently didn’t follow a block on at least one occasion from what I could gather.
We get so caught up as parents, especially, in pointing out what our children and others do to our dislike that we miss some of the best moments that reveal the true character of kids.
I have been guilty of it many times. Too many times, actually.
If we’re all honest, as parents all of us have been guilty of focusing on what kids do wrong instead of what they do well. It grows into other areas of life, too, at work and play.
Whether it’s football players attending soccer matches or band performances of their fellow student-athletes, a kid sharing his moment in the spotlight as a senior by making sure a fellow student with Down Syndrome was able to experience the night of a lifetime by passing his homecoming king honor to him, or students in all walks of life spending time packing backpacks full of food for other kids who may otherwise go hungry without the backpack, we have some really good young people in our community.
Remember, they are just kids learning about life and about what truly is important once the cheering fades to other parts of life.
Allen’s hand-out gesture has left quite an impact on me, if for no other reason, it made me think a little about why we so frequently focus on the negative of someone instead of the positive.
After the prayer ended, our hands broke free and he went to celebrate with his teammates. The rain kept falling on this night as a once loud stadium of cheers began to empty of players and fans.
It wasn’t until a few hours later when I really started to come to grips with what I had just experienced and how my brain went from holding hands with someone who I had never met to my mind racing into overdrive. I thought a lot about that life moment that lasted less than a minute.
We hear talk all the time about including others in what we do. How often do we really take those words to heart, even when we are the ones doing the preaching?
I would have thought nothing of it if Allen didn’t offer his hand during the group prayer. I didn’t even realize I was that close to him.
Here was T.J. Allen, a young kid reaching out to someone old enough to be his grandfather, to make sure he felt included. It was a small gesture, one that has left a big impact.