A Better Senior Night Solution

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I am back … and committing to blogging regularly so … come back often too!

I have had this thought before, but this time I was a part of it so it has become more than a thought. It is now a feeling, a belief, a truth. (isn’t that amazing! How actually seeing something or being a part of it can change a thought to a truth!)

The thought is Senior Night. That probably shocked you. But I have questioned the notion of “Senior Day/Night” before. For those of you who are removed from high school/college athletics – let me explain. Senior Night is usually the last home game for a team and all the seniors are recognized on the court before the game. Seems harmless and nice, right?

Parents are invited to participate. The mother, father, sisters, grandmothers – sometimes it a restricted number of people and sometimes there is total freedom and 15 people walk out with one athlete.

I have often thought about the kids who don’t have parents or don’t have good ones. Or in college, maybe have parents who physically can’t travel or can’t afford to travel. And they have no one. What does that feel like? What emotional harm does that create? What is the internal message that athlete speaks to himself about himself because no one is there to walk him out on the field for his big night?

I have seen it (from the stands) a few times and clapped louder for that athlete. Thought about it for a minute and then went on my way. This time it stuck … Because I was there.

I was speaking at a high school recently. They have a very diverse student population – in every category – not just race. There are all kinds of beautiful people with unique situations and experiences at this school. It was senior night for the basketball team. I wondered how many of these kids would have no one, so I asked. It was unsure, but administration was sure at least one would have no one.

I returned to the school that night to make sure he had someone, and if needed to be his stand-in mom. To hug him, tell him good job and walk him on the court. It was amazing – for me! I hope it was for him.

On the plane ride home the next morning, I was thinking about it. And I got angry. I got emotional about children who are alone. Children who have been attending school districts for possibly 12 years. And the same high school for 4. They have teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches – and they have no one close enough to them to want to be there in this moment? Or maybe, no one has thought through the moment enough to realize how this night will make certain children feel?

I remember looking around the gym that night and thinking about the investment in these kids’ lives. The support, love, encouragement – where is it coming from?

Look around your gym, field – whatever arena you “play” in. Who is there? Investment or lack thereof will be visible by who is in the arena. Those who know the stories of students (or just people) and care about them as human beings are invested. And they show up! They want to be there to cheer for the successes, and pick these kids up after the failures. And they will walk, run, ride or fly to support them.

Do we have people in our lives who show up for our senior day moments? But more importantly, do we show up for others? Going the extra mile for others isn’t always the easy thing to do but it is the right thing to do.

My Solution: My senior night wouldn’t necessarily involve parents. I would ask the players to pick one adult who has greatly affected their life in a positive way and helped them get to this very moment. This is the person who walks you on the field. Maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s your teacher, someone in your community or maybe it’s me. Doesn’t matter. The message is that love, support, encouragement and family are not defined by blood!

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