He hung around the edges of the soccer field, mocking younger sixth graders as they practiced. Henry’s reputation was as a school bully. Discerning the distraction, Coach Carlos plotted his path around the practice field to approach Henry. Then, close enough, Coach looked over at Henry and extended his hand, “Hey Henry, I hear you’re a really good player. Your school’s team could really use you.”
Expecting to be admonished, Henry was bewildered by the invitation. “This team?” Henry recoiled, “I don’t think so.” But, as his arrogance and fear subsided, he sneered, “I’ll think about it.”
Over the next few days, Coach Carlos sought Henry out in the hallways, he dropped in on his classes and ‘hung out’ in Henry’s mandatory tutorial; just building a relationship. Henry joined the soccer team. Coach found that Henry was a really good offensive player and scorer. Then, one day Coach Carlos heard a familiar voice at the other end of the soccer field, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back!” The smaller sixth graders that Henry used to ridicule were now being encouraged by him. Henry had chosen to play defense.
Later in the season, while Carlos was coaching from the sidelines, Henry walked up and asked, “Why am I the way I am?“ Coach Carlos understood the question coming from his player, a school bully. “Come over here,” Coach motioned, wrapping his arm around Henry’s shoulder. While shouting encouragement to his team, Coach felt Henry’s arm around his back. Side by side, arm in arm they stood together on the sidelines. As Coach pulled him in tighter, Henry reciprocated. Then Coach turned, face to face with Henry. They hugged. “See, that’s all you needed,” Coach said. Henry smiled, childlike, and hugged his Coach another time.
Every child just wants to be known and loved. A hug embraces hope. Love changes lives. “He was a bully! Now Henry helps me,” said a 6th grade teammate. The school had been his auditorium, the classroom his stage. By “acting out” Henry could influence a whole school. Now, Henry is a leader, for good – no longer a “bully” he’s become a “Buddy.”
That’s what you have done through your support of Jubilee REACH. You’ve changed lives, futures and families. It is written, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”