Back in my middle school days, our lunch periods were devoted to playing basketball. My friends and I would scarf down our lunches as fast as we could to get as much playing time as possible. Every once in a while I would even find myself skipping lunch and playing basketball in the gym for the full half hour. Unfortunately, many of my fellow classmates shared this same love of the game. This led to the inevitable lining up of the players and letting our fates rest in the decision of the “captains.” Captains were usually the star basketball players. These masters of the game earned the right every day to pick their teammates. However, middle schoolers rarely take feelings into account when choosing their teams. Winning is obviously all that matters.
I remember on one particular day 11 guys showed up. This meant that one lone kid would be turned away; each team had five players, so only 10 were needed. I’ve never been considered a great athlete, but on the other hand, I wasn’t afraid of being left out. One by one, the lineup of kids grew smaller as the teams formed. There I stood with about three or four other kids lined up with me. All of us playing it off like we didn’t care whether we were picked or not, but everyone cared. I breathed a sigh of relief as I was drafted to a team. Not that I felt threatened or anything; I was usually close to last picked anyway, and I was fine with that.
Finally, our teams were set to play five on five. I watched the casualty of the captain system walk away in disappointment. Usually this did not bother me; hey if you don’t get picked you can always find another game to join, but this kid looked absolutely distraught. Couldn’t we find a way to let him play with us? Maybe one of the teams could have a substitute or something. The game went on but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In my mind there was no excuse for what happened; he deserved to be playing with us. I believe the ten of us made a huge mistake that day.
Nobody likes rejection. To me there’s almost nothing worse than feeling left out, but unfortunately it’s a feeling with which everyone can relate. Whether it’s a middle schooler turned away from a basketball game, a man let go from his job, or a victim of child abuse, rejection hurts. I believe everybody deserves a chance to be spared this pain. In many cases, the simplest gestures can make this belief reality. We could all let that extra guy join our team, but instead it has been my experience that we throw salt on the wound more often; we are quicker to reject others for our own benefit than we are to offer acceptance. All ten of us guys watched the odd man out walk away. He did nothing to deserve what he was given, but we allowed it to happen. Nobody provided that simple gesture, that acceptance we can all appreciate. While it may be just a game, I believe everyone deserves the chance to play.
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