I had the good fortune to work with Cleo Gorman for several years through the Birmingham, AL office of TRO JB. She is a joy in every respect, and that spirit shines through in this thoughtful response to the question:
How Will We Live Tomorrow?
In my humble opinion, our tomorrow will be determined, in large part, by how well we teach our children to embrace other races, cultures, and even each other in our own backyards.
In our recent experience, my daughter, Ellie, had worked hard to make the volleyball team for the next school year. For months, Ellie labored, perfecting her overhand serve and spike. She played in a couple of recreation leagues, took clinics, and had a couple of private lessons. She has diverse interests, but volleyball has been her favorite and most competitive sport.
On the first day of a three-day “look” by the coaches, she was ready. We were early and she felt good about her chances. After the workout, she came bounding out to the car, nervous, but excited. We were to check the school’s website for the list at 6 p.m. If a girl’s name was not there, she didn’t make the first cut and was not invited back for Day 2.
You guessed it: Ellie didn’t make the team. This was the first real disappointment my sweet, hard-working, optimistic daughter had ever experienced. And, with my second and third pouring over the list, on which her name was not listed, my own heart sank. That night, we cried a little and talked more. Ellie confided that she would hate her friends’ questions at school the next day and having to reveal her failure to make the team. She would hate not playing on the team next year but even more, would be embarrassed and would have a hard time concentrating on her school work for the long school day. All seemed bleak.
But my story is not as much about this experience and what Ellie has done with it, as much as the story beyond the story. What happened next was refreshing and inspiring. After that dreaded day at school, we went on our evening walk with the dog. She reported that several friends had sympathized with her and she did feel a little better. She was still stung by the coaches’ rejection, having known that she had done her best, but knew she’d need to get over it.
We stopped to open the mailbox, and what we found there was not just the mail, and not just one treat from a friend for Ellie, but three! Friends from different walks of their activities together had thought to console her in a tangible way through her 12-year-old heartbrokenness and disappointment. These were friends who had, days earlier, just made cheerleading or the dance squad for the 7th grade year, girls who could otherwise have been celebrating their own successes rather than attending to one of their own who’d not tasted their same success.
This experience revealed more to me about the future than all the stock market reports and political stories regarding our future! Real caring is being taught and is being demonstrated by the next generation. That’s something about which to feel really good and something about which to look forward to for tomorrow!
It doesn’t make up for the school team camaraderie and gamesmanship Ellie will miss next season, but it does something else: it shows her that she’s part of a caring community and she is valued there.
Ellie and I will pay it forward at every chance, from now on!