Several years ago one of the student athletes (I'll call him Mel) on the campus I was serving as principal was a "Blue Chip" football recruit. "Blue Chip" is a phrase that refers to the very best athletes in the nation. These athletes are heavily recruited by the most prominent universities in the nation. Mel was truly a marvelous athlete. Not only was he a Blue Chip recruit as a running back in football, he was equally recruited as a basketball player, a situation that is extremely rare (and it speaks volumes with respect to Mel's unusual athletic prowess).
One of the universities that zealously recruited Mel, and eventually won his commitment, was the football program at the University of Texas at Austin. Then coach Mack Brown of UT Austin made several visits to our campus during that recruiting period. Once Mel committed to UT Austin, Coach Brown offered to have a picture taken with Mel to commemorate the big decision. It was Coach Brown's practice to give new recruits the option of taking that picture with a significant other, chosen by the athlete. Most recruits would choose a parent, a coach, a teacher, or some other influential/significant adult for this illustrious photo opportunity.
On photo day, Mel walked Coach Brown down a couple of hallways on our campus to the life skills room. This is the classroom on school campuses that serve students with the most severe disabilities. In these classrooms are taught the students with extraordinary physical challenges and/or extreme cognitive limitations.
Mel introduced Coach Brown to a fellow student (a life skills student I'll call Pete). Pete was a dyed-in-the-wool UT Longhorn fan, and he also served as an honorary manager of our high school football team. Of all the people Mel could have chosen for that most memorable photo, with one of the most famous coaches in the history of college football, he chose Pete.
Tears still come to my eyes when I think of that photo shoot. Mel, one of the most gifted athletes I have ever personally known, and Pete, one of the most challenged students I have ever known, standing in tight configuration with Coach Mack Brown in that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
I like to think Mel was paying it both forward and backward with this monumental gesture.
Mel's thoughtful act challenges me still...