He made his way towards me in the kitchen. With an armful of dirty clothes.
He’s so tall now. More man than boy. Memories of younger days come rushing in like the ocean headed for shore. I brace myself for the wave, while the undercurrent of emotions threatens to pull my feet right out from under me. But arms steady. I hold in blurred tears and reach out for stinky laundry.
Mamas. Often holding in, while reaching out.
His basketball clothes were still wet with sweat—wrapped and tangled over his arm. But I noticed something different about the size and look of these warm-ups. They were too big. Too long. Too baggy. The tag confirmed what I already knew. The warm-ups were not his own.
And he tells me the story. About how the underclassman worked his way up to a Varsity position on the team. While this young man is big in spirit, he is small in stature. And the only warm-ups left for the newest, shortest, smallest player on the team are XL and 2XL. They swallowed him whole. Making it too easy to go unseen and feel lost.
Whether right or wrong, we put some emphasis on appearance. Looks can be a big deal. Even to boys. Especially to high school boys. Apparently, sleek and slender and skinny are the newest fashion trends. Not big and baggy and dragging-the-floor-when-you-walk sweatpants worn by the newbie.
My son noticed. My son remembered.
And he traded out his own warm-ups for the underclassman’s. Even though now, he’d be the one with ill-fitting sweats.
He wanted him to feel like he “fit in”—guess he figured that actually fitting insome team apparel was a good place as any to start.
Experiences shape us. And they can help make or break us, too.
Just a couple of years ago, my son was this same underclassman. He’d worked his way onto the Varsity team. And one day during the season, thinking he’d earned his place, he walked into the Varsity locker room. An upperclassman kicked him out. Told him where underclassman could go.
And so he went. Dragging baggy team pants and all.
Maybe it sounds a little sappy, but I still remember the look on his face when he came home that day and told me the story. Stung him like a bee. And it was hard for me to pull the stinger free.
But he said this… in a powerful kind of broken way, “When I’m an upperclassman, I’m gonna be good to the underclassman.”
I’ll say this about that: He is an (upperclass)man of his word.
Today, getting ready to leave for the Varsity game, I watched him when he didn’t know I was looking– He stared back at the mirror’s reflection and tried hard to adjust pants that are, once again, too long. A jacket that is too big. And the mirror told the truth: He swapped out kindness for appearance.
But I hope he saw in the mirror what I see: The upperclassman. Being GOOD to the underclassman.
One who holds the door wide open. Never kicking another out.
He leaves, passing me in the kitchen. The big, baggy, dragging-the-floor-when-he-walks sweatpants leading by a better way.
He drives off. I’m holding another load of dirty laundry. And whispering a spit-prayer of thanks to Jesus.
Because while his warm-ups don’t fit his body, they certainly fit his heart.
The upperclassman will sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the underclassman. Leading in all the ways that matter most.
And before the basketball is ever tipped, I know who wins this game.