Twice a week I am witness to a beautiful and yet somewhat heartbreaking moment. I think it’s my favourite moment of watching two of my boys play basketball each week.
They play as part of a community basketball program and they love every second of it. The coaches are encouraging and ruffle their hair after a great shot and teach them skills and push them hard without them ever feeling defeated and it’s exactly the kind of community you want your kids to be a part of. Forever.
There’s this moment at the end of every session. The coach blows the whistle and they all grab their basketballs and freeze and then he calls them in really close, to gather around him like his little flock of sheep. They all run in and huddle up. They sit on the ground in front of him, hands in their laps, lips sealed and they look up at him with expectation and anticipation in their eyes.
Because they know. They know what’s coming next. They have been apart of this for weeks, even months now and every time it’s the same. Every time they gather all smushed up together with their sweaty little heads. Every time they wait to hear his words.
See, every week each of the various coaches calls out a kids name. Each week they highlight a child who stood out to them, who was maybe a great sport, or an amazing team leader, or who worked so hard or who conquered something they’d been working on for weeks. Each time the coaches call a name, the child gets to rise up in front of their peers and march proudly to the front and pick an old basketball card from a pile.
I assure you, it is not the basketball card that is enticing to them. Those they can get for a dime a dozen at any flea market. Rather, it’s being noticed. It’s someone taking the time to recognize them. To call them out by their name and say, “You! You did a great job. You have excelled. You have given it your all and I see it. I see you. I’m proud of you.”
And when their name gets called, they march up and choose their card and the whole gathering of munchkins clap and chant their name. It’s a beautiful thing. And they beam. And each week each of those children sit there hoping that it’s their turn. That maybe this week their name will be called. That this week someone will have taken notice. And each week my heart breaks for each child that didn’t get called because they were amazing too! I saw them! I want to tell them that I saw their dribbles and their layups and they were great. They were noticed.
It got me thinking about life as an adult. Isn’t it what we want to? Someone to see us. Someone to look at us and say I notice your hard work and I see what you did there and you are doing a great job!
Someone to recognize that we’re just standing there all by ourselves and call us over into their circle. To take the time to know us by name. To broaden their own places of comfort to include us?
Because those coaches could end by huddling up together and making fun of the kids who sucked that day. Or they could gather and chat about the hockey pool or what’s going on in their own lives, but they don’t. They choose to recognize the little people around them and it makes those little people want to shine!
I want to be the one in this world who hands out the basketball cards. I want to be the one who assures those around me that they are noticed. I want to be their cheerleader and their encourager. I never want the people around me to feel like they don’t fit in. Or they don’t matter. Or there isn’t room for them. Or that nobody notices them over there on the sidelines.
It doesn’t even have to be because of their accomplishments. In fact, forget the accomplishments, I see you anyways. I see you because you are simply there and worth noticing. I see you because you have a story, you are on a journey, you are a human being just like me and we are connected because we were both made in the image of God.
I don’t care what you look like or what you do for work. I see you.
I don’t care if you like the same things I do or not. I see you.
It doesn’t matter if you live in the same neighbourhood as I do or shop at the same stores as me. You have value to me.
I couldn’t care less if you cut your own hair or pay a pretty penny at the salon every month. You matter.
I want the people I see, the ones I pass in my days, the ones who collide with my circle or just happen to float by on the outskirts, to know that you are amazing.
That thing you did today? That was awesome.
That trial you faced? Well done.
Those tears you cried? I know, I’ve cried about that too.
As adults we need to know that we aren’t that different from the kids. Sure, we may have been hurt enough times that we’ve built up walls and say we don’t care or that we don’t require anyone’s approval but we know it’s not true.
We’re wired for community. We’re wired to need love. We’re wired to shine with encouragement.
We need to broaden our spectrum, dontcha think? Make room in our circles and room at our tables and room in our schedules for this. We need to leave our huddles and our comfortable places and look to the edges and see that there are amazing people there, people looking on with expectant eyes, people just wanting their name to be called.
Let’s be those coaches in our worlds today, calling out names and handing out cards and giving high fives all around.