Sure, my exterior is often like a hard candy shell, but my insides are even melt-ier than a Hershey bar sitting on a radiator when it comes to certain topics. Sick kids, for one. Bullied kids are another one. Add kids who are embarrassed at the needless whim of adults to the list. Lonely kids shatter my heart to bits, too. I grew up with lots of friends, but some of the relationships weren’t without their drama at times. I got dumped by a friend in sixth grade and the memory of the pain, confusion, isolation and humiliation is something I’ve never quite shaken.
I’ve long felt that I want my daughters to grow up to be nerds. The pressure to be — and stay — popular is no way to have a happy childhood. High school hero, real life zero, right? Right, but. Middle school, high school and college are significant chunks of a young person’s life, and it can feel like a prison sentence if they don’t have some true friends or at least some good, solid acquaintances by their side. Or even just someone to sit with at lunchtime.
I usually read more bad stories than good ones about college football players. But every once in a while, there’s a diamond in the rough.
North Carolina State’s football team, the Wolfpack, probably isn’t thrilled with their 3-7 record so far this season. Fortunately they have other, better reasons to hold their heads up high these days.
A photo was posted on Imgur earlier this week (that we first saw on The Huffington Post) of two North Carolina State Football players eating lunch. The photos seems like no big deal, until you read that the players made a point to sit with a student who was eating alone.
One of the commenters on Imgur said that the guy they sat with, who is in a wheelchair, is “an amazingly dedicated student,” while others noted he “gives people rides on his wheelchair around campus.”
Maybe it’s not fair to assume the guy eating alone was lonely. There’s no obvious reason why he wouldn’t have friends to sit with him or that he wasn’t just looking for some solitude. But for players at a Division I school to park themselves down for a meal with someone not surrounded by anyone else — to me — is an act of grace and kindness.
There are a lot of ways to give and give back, but this is one that particularly tugs at my heartstrings. For kids of any age who are looking (or even for those who are not) for a small way to do a potentially big thing around the holiday season, maybe something like this could be it. I know the times in my life that people reached out to me in ways that were perhaps insignificant to them when I felt all alone meant a great deal to me. The holidays can be particularly daunting for people without a lot of loved ones with whom to spend time. Keeping them company during a meal can be worthwhile. Acknowledging they’re important enough to sit down and spend time with them is easy to do — and something so little can go so far in making someone feel like they matter. That’s something these football players reminded me of, and something I’ll talk to my children about.
It’s not often that kids — and football players especially — are guilty by association in a good way. The Wolfpack, however, may now claim that distinction.
NOTE: A North Carolina State spokeswoman told CBS Sports that the boy purportedly eating alone is actually friends with one of the football players at the table.
Photo credit: Imgur