Sunday, November 10, 2002

Alive and well

Incident of great kindness is all too rare


American hearts were warmed last week when two high school football coaches creating a moment of uncontaminated pure goodness. For some of us, the fact that the moment took place on Ohio ground makes it even sweeter.

The story goes like this. Dave Frantz, coach of the Scioto County's Northwest Mohawks, wanted Jake Porter, a student with mental retardation and an infectious appreciation of life, to get some "play" time on the football field.

The 17-year-old devotee of sports has dressed for every game but had not played. In a conversation with opposing coach, Derek DeWitt of the Waverly Tigers, it was agreed that Jake would "take a knee" in the last play of the game (meaning he take the ball and fall to his knees to end the play).

The magic occurred when, with Waverly winning 42-0, Coach DeWitt offered to let Jake score. He did - and all the boys on both teams and the supporters in the stands, went wild with joy.

Everyone - from those who saw Jake's touchdown live to Internet message boards and readers around the world - has been responding to this story the same way: We choke up, get a lump in the throat, a tear in the eye, are full of pride for a minute to be from Ohio, America, the human race.

The incident was a lovely one, but why is it so rare? Jake Porter is one sweet boy who happens to have a disability through no fault of his own. His coaches are two exceedingly decent men who saw how much this gesture would mean to one young man.

My fear, though, is how easily we can bask in the shared glow of goodness, of one solitary act of inclusion, and go back to business as usual in our own daily settings.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if that temporary burst of pride were an ongoing sense of ourselves?

What we saw in Jake's touchdown was how magnificent all of us could feel, by giving one among us a break, a gift, an opportunity to be truly one among us.

What those two coaches did captured our hearts because it was so extraordinary. We could do likewise - not just on the football field, but everywhere - and make such kindness and inclusion the ordinary thing to do. That would teach our children how to live.

Contact Deborah Kendrick by phone: 673-4474; fax: 321-6430; e-mail:

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