Well, the details are a little fuzzy (it depends on who you ask), but Joshua was in the 9th or 10th grade, when he came home from school telling me that he'd been asked to be a team manager for the Varsity boys basketball team.
I wasn't immediately excited, because we...his teachers and I...had never even entertained this idea. NOT AT ALL. I was skeptical...and nervous. I thought, "oh no...Joshua has either convinced himself that he's going to do this...OR, he flat-out asked the coach if he could do this, and the man didn't have the heart to tell him, "no."
But he kept on about it, so I asked his Special Fred teacher to please check it out.
Because here's the thing: Joshua is neat. He picks up after HIMSELF. He was not going to be too thrilled to be picking up after those Varsity boys. Also, Joshua is a GERM FREAK...he was not about to touch a water bottle that umpteen people had been drinking out of...or some nasty towel that had been thrown on the floor. And, finally, sweat grosses him out.
WELL. Those Searcy Lions were going to be LUCKY to have him! :)
His teacher got back to me, and she was more than a little excited! She said that she had talked to the coach, and he told her that he had, indeed, approached Joshua about it. And I may or may not have cried. And, when I got home later and told Jim about it...I may or may not have cried again.
Joshua called himself the "home game" manager, until the following year, when Holly signed on to help with the team. This was all her doing, but MAN...it was such a blessing to Jim and me. Holly's presence added some support to the situation. Joshua was able to attend the away games now, with his sister...and the other managers...and then he and Holly rode home together when they got back to the school.
There are several touch-stone moments from Joshua's school years, and being a basketball manager was one of them.
High school is hard enough, for everybody, but that one invitation, from a kind-hearted coach, made all the difference in Joshua's confidence at school. He felt important. He felt needed. He felt like part of the team...and he knew EVERYONE.
We always tried to sit behind the team, because Joshua sat on the bench...at the very end. This meant that we always sat on the visitor's side of the home games, and that was always super fun. NOT. We just wanted to be close in case there was every any sort of issue. Knowing we were there also gave Holly the freedom to do her job.
The main thing we worried about at games were safety issues for Joshua. But sometimes, we also had to worry about his attitude.
Joshua didn't always have the best attitude when his team was losing. There were gestures...mumbling...arm-folding...and the mad, bottom-lip-sticking-out thing.
He was the manager for 2 or 3 years, and we made it out of high school without him drawing a technical for our team...so I call that a win-WIN!
On Senior night, all of the Varsity boys (and girls), and all of the managers, were recognized on the court before the game. When they called Joshua's name, the entire gym erupted in applause, and everyone stood up and cheered. I could not believe it.
I glanced around, and saw so many of our friends there, smiling and cheering. Truthfully, they had been there all along...good days, bad days...and the hard years when it felt like every day was a struggle. Some of his teachers and therapists were there...many of them had been there from the start of his educational journey, so it was only fitting that they were there at the end.
This night, Senior night, all started because ONE PERSON...Coach Roger Franks...took a chance on Joshua. And, because of that, love was raining down on our family.
I wanted to freeze that moment in time, because you know what it felt like?
It felt like GRACE.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40