Two days ago I saw a story on the news that gave me pause and also put a smile on my face. It was about a high school football game in which one of the teams had a player with down syndrome on their team. That fact right away warmed my heart. Here was a regular public high school who had put a special needs student on their team as one of the regular players on the roster.

 

The game had only a little more than a minute left on the clock and the team with the boy with down syndrome was losing the game by a very wide margin…the score was not close whatsoever. With approximately one minute and seven seconds left in the game, the quarterback handed the ball off to this boy who was the running back and he ran around to the right of the front line and scampered all the way to the end zone scoring a touch down  for his team. This young man was ecstatic, jumping wildly, being mobbed by his fellow team mates. The crowd was also screaming and applauding and cheering loudly.
 

What made this incident especially touching is that it was previously conferred upon and planned. Apparently the coach of the losing team talked privately with the coach and players of the opposing winning team during the last time out, explained what a thrill it would be for his special needs player to run into the end zone and considering the score, he asked the other coach and players if they would consider allowing this boy to score a touchdown as it would be an incredible triumph and personal victory for him. The opposing team was more than agreeable and so the stage was set. The ball was snapped, the quarterback handed the ball to this young man who ran with determination down the sideline and scored the memorable touchdown.
 

The opposing players acted as though they were chasing him and some dove at his feet missing him. All of the players on both teams ran to the end zone and were jumping up and down in celebration as this special young man clutched that football with a huge smile and tears in his eyes. The camera spanned the faces of all of the players…the boy’s team mates were rejoicing, slapping him on the back , yelling and putting the lad on their shouders, but what was so powerful to me was the faces of the boys on the opposing team who willingly went along with the idea. They stood there just smiling and looking very happy and satisfied. Watching the expressions of their faces ignited a real spark of hope within me because in that moment, who won and who lost was not what everyone was concentrating on. Instead, all who witnessed the event were realizing that the joy that this boy was experiencing was really far more important than anything else right then. Both teams played a part in creating that opportunity for that young man that day and those other young men felt a sense of pride for doing so.

 

For a brief moment, the focus of competition and “we are the best” mentality was put on hold while they watched as their actions that day enabled a young man to have an experience that he would not ever forget. Yes, that day seeing the joy and exhilaration of someone else trumped the “me first” philosophy that so pervades our society today.

 

Congratulations to both coaches as they taught their players a valuable lesson …that causing and creating joy in others’ lives through unselfishness can be much more powerful than always being first or best. I am not saying that winning was not important to the opposing players that day because I am sure that it was. I am also quite sure that if the game had been close that they would have never consented to the plan at all. They did learn that day however, that they reaped tremendous joy and contentment when they reached out to someone and helped him to be triumphant, especially when it would have been impossible without their help.

 

Simply put- they gave him the gift of that moment. It wasn’t about themselves, it was about someone else. That simple difference it was it is all about.

 

How about us? Do we want joy in our lives? We need look no further than to these high school boys and the lesson that they learned that day!