When I was twelve years old and in sixth grade, my father moved the family from a small town in North Dakota to a small city in Arizona..The whole sixth grade class in North Dakota had about twenty kids in it. The new school in Arizona had four sixth grade classes of about twenty five kids each.
When I started at my new school, I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me, at least that is what I thought.
One of the first days there, the coach decided that for PE (physical education class), we would have a sixth grade softball game. Coach chose the two best softball players to pick teams. The rest of us stood in a line waiting to be picked by these two star players. How do you think I felt? I was new at school. No one knew me. I was also one of the shortest guys in sixth grade Certainly no one would pick me. I felt very alone with the certainty that I would be the last one chosen..
Captains Mike and Jerry made the obvious first pick, the next best players available. Already I felt left out as Mike made his second pick. He pointed to me and said, “I take the new kid.” I couldn’t believe my ears and said, “Who? Me?” He nodded yes. I ran over to join his team. My sense of loneliness quickly disappeared, replaced by sheer delight, and a quick rush of adrenaline. He picked me.
The two captains made the rest of the picks. Those who weren’t selected, and all of the girls and teachers, watched from the sidelines as the softball game began. But I was on the field, part of the team. Can you guess what happened? I played the best softball game of my life. I even hit a home run! Suddenly, everybody knew who I was. No longer just the new kid in school. I was the new kid who hit a home run. The ice had been broken. I was now a part of the school..
Why did Mike pick me? He was the tallest guy in sixth grade, the best athlete, and very popular. But he chose me, unknown me. Why? Mike and his mom attended a church where my Dad was about to become pastor. Mike didn’t know me, but he knew who I was, and he wanted to do something to welcome me.
After that, I never got to know Mike very well. We never became close friends. But sixth grade Mike gave me an important lesson in living out Jesus’ instruction: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I will never forget that lesson. And I will never forget Mike’s lesson of love in action.