*All names in this piece have been changed.*
The gym is full. The excitement, after 10 games of teacher vs. student basketball, has reached a whole new level.
“Team 11,” we call.
Out they come. Staring down the teachers. Billy paces back and forth having waited a full 40+ minutes to play his game. The excitement. The nerves. All evident on his face and in his movements.
The whistle blows and the teachers start to go up the court.
Pass. Pass. Shoot. Miss.
Rebound. Down to the other end. A student attempts a shot and it bounces off the rim. John rebounds the ball. He turns. Why isn’t he going in for an easy lay up? He searches his teammates faces and finds Billy. He passes the ball to Billy.
“Shoot,” they all encourage. Billy takes the ball and shoots… and it goes in! The crowd goes wild! Billy starts to run back looking side to side instead of straight ahead. His smile grows from ear to ear as he sees the children from Kindergarten through 6th grade cheering for him.
Teachers ball. Pass. Pass. Pass. Shot. Score.
The ball comes down and Billy grabs it. He dribbles down the court unaware of anyone else- just his mission. He gets to the foul line. He stops and twirls around a complete 360 degrees… shoots… and SCORES! The crowd goes even wilder than wild. The kids are cheering. Yelling his name- “GO BILLY GO!”
The teachers all look at each other. None of them can help the tears that well up in their eyes. To watch him. To watch his classmates. To watch his schoolmates.
This. This is what it is all about. A child who struggles expressing himself. A child who struggles to contain his emotion. A child who is unable to participate in so much of what his peers participate in.
But today. He expresses himself… he shares his emotion… he participates and is a part of something bigger than all of us.