Douglas M. Hoy
At first, this column was to be about a remarkable young man, and it is. But it encompasses so much more. Let me introduce you to Stevie Sevenski, or as everyone knows him, “Stevie.”
He is a wonderful young man, 14 years of age, who attends our local middle school. He is in eighth grade. If you spend even a short amount of time with this young man, you discover none of what is evident on the outside matters one bit to what is contained within Stevie.
At times, it can be a bit tough to communicate verbally with Stevie. This is not due to lack of any effort on anyone’s part, it is just the way it is. Yet, in some transcendent way, you understand Stevie. You see, Stevie has Down syndrome.
I watched him play in his final middle-school basketball game, a sport he has come to love. Stevie does not show flashes of speed, pushing the ball up court and bedazzling the crowd with his basketball technique. Stevie did the best he could. Stevie always does his best, he knows no other way. The lack of physical skills does not matter; it does not matter in so many ways. Stevie just playing on the eighth-grade basketball team would be story enough. But really, in the larger scope, there is so much more.
Stevie played the first two minutes of each quarter. Without delay, without any prompting or hesitation, the entire team took charge. They displayed acts of true friendship, showing Stevie he belongs — that yes indeed, he was one of them, just as important to the team as any young man standing on the court.
The coaches, the referees, as well as the opposing team, gave certain allowances to Stevie — permitting extra opportunities for just one more chance for Stevie to make a basket. If he did not do everything correct, according to the rules of basketball, no one cared. Stevie ended up with a very pleasing ten points. After each basket, pure joy, as he ran back up the court, fist pumping into the air and the large, endearing smile of untainted gladness on his face. Truly, this was a wonderful show of compassion, understanding and caring from every member of both teams. The final score did matter but not near as much as helping a young man feel his self-worth. In the end, everyone won.
I became exposed to a new and pleasing way to view our youth. We may have heard horror stories of how unruly, discourteous or just downright insolent young people of this age can be. Reflecting upon our own youth, many of us might agree. However, speaking with Coach Kevin Robinson, watching what transpired on the court, you can see just how wrong one can be about the youth of today by holding them to this superficial, predetermined adolescent behavior.
The caring, respect and love for Stevie from his teammates, the opposition and all in attendance was as natural as breathing itself. Stevie’s parents told me this is not unusual; it is the norm which today’s young people show on a consistent basis. There is no pretense, just honest caring for one of their classmates. No one sees Stevie as a friend in need, just a friend.
I learned a great deal from the parents of the world Stevie lives within. It certainly has not been an easy road, but it has been a journey filled with many joyous moments. I better understand how this condition affects Stevie, his family and many around him. His personal assimilation is assisted and anchored by our much-involved school system, programs and the caring of friends and family. Also, it’s remarkable how this young man has turned out to be such a positive influence on classmates, teammates, teachers and others who casually spend even the briefest of moments with him.
So when you are considering the young teens of today — those young men and women who may be a bit unpolished, unruly and, yes, over-filled with exuberance and life — you might want to consider how wonderfully they truly treat others. They are our future, and the future is looking so much better. Come see it for yourselves.