At the risk of defending my past (and if my coach is reading this, this is not what I’m doing) I’d like to share a story.
It was the fall of 1994. My senior year at Central-Tuscaloosa High School. And if you knew about me in high school, you’d know just how miserable those four years were for me. And even if you didn’t know, you’ll know after you read this.
I was eating lunch one day – alone. I was looking down at my food and hear a voice.
“Ryan, want to come sit with us?” I look up and see one of CHS’s true cool kids. Hope (not her real name) was a cheerleader. She was in several clubs. To say nothing of the fact that she was simply adorable.
So I was by myself one moment, and sitting with the “coolest” kids at Central the next.
This lasted maybe a week.
I soon found myself by myself yet again. I don’t know what happened. It doesn’t really matter.
My social skills didn’t really develop until adulthood. And one could argue that my social skills are really just now getting good as I go through coach training.
My mom was convinced that I fell on the autism spectrum. This was never confirmed, although I was tested several times.
I mean I went for tests but didn’t know what I was being tested on. I remember one Saturday my mom and dad took me to a thing at the old Northington Hospital barracks which had been turned into the City Board of education offices.
A story went viral a few weeks ago about Travis Rudolph. He’s the Florida State football player who was photographed eating lunch with an autistic boy named Bo. Since that story went viral, young Bo has become one of the most popular kids at his school.
But I contend that it shouldn’t take a viral photograph or story on the Huffington Post to get kids to be compassionate to those who are different, isolated, or alone.
I say this not as a parent, but as the kid who found himself alone often. Please teach your kids to have compassion to those who are different than you. Who may be ostracized or alone.
I have a spoiler alert for you: everybody is different than you. There are better than 7.4 billion people on this rock. That means there are 7.4 billion different people.
Teach your kids to accept differences in people. Your kid will be happier and your kid will be way more compassionate.
Love yourself. Love your differences.
And with apologies to the Beatles: love is all you need.