This is Character Education month as was adopted by all the partnership boards during the meetings this last week. Not that we would only teach character in the month of October, but to honor the fact that we teach character each and every day at our schools and we are recognizing that fact this month.
I used to tell my kids while they were growing up, that character is what you do when others aren’t watching and that when you make a choice about how to act or what to do, that you are showing others about the kind of man you are going to be. Here is a story about a young man who showed his character.
By the time Dennis was a senior at St. Francis de Sales High School in Chicago he was a star. A star athlete. He was an excellent swimmer, basketball player, and softball pitcher. His best sport was football. In 1978, he was named best kicker in the Illinois Catholic Football League. He has booted nearly 300 points for his team throughout his illustrious high school career. His varsity coach called him incredible. Unlike most of his teammates, Dennis was calm, relaxed, and confident as he walked on the field. Yet there was another way that Dennis is different from his teammates.
He did not talk about it much. He didn’t have to. You see young Dennis got his start in sports in the streets. Even then, football was his game. He was such a prodigious athlete by the time he reached high school, he had no trouble at all making the team. In order to concentrate on football, he had to push swimming, basketball, softball further down on his list of priorities. Of course, just like every mother of an aspiring football player, Dennis’s mother was at first concerned with Dennis’s wild enthusiasm for sports. Nevertheless, matter-of-factly, Dennis reassured mom that he would be just fine. He did go on to become the most extraordinary football player that the school ever turned out. Dennis played first-string punts, kickoffs, extra points, and field goals. In the 1978 season, in a contest against Webber, Dennis’s three field goals were his team’s only score. They won that game 9 to 7. Dennis’s coach Mike had seen many players come and go but Dennis was different the coach said. A coach always worries about the hot shot from Junior High physically and psychologically. Expectations are sometimes completely unrealistic. Dennis never flinched. He was in there all the way. Through the hottest days of August training Dennis, a kicker remember, would tackle each and every grueling drill as if he were trying out for middle linebacker.
Where is he now? Dennis could have made it to the NFL but he wanted a more normal life. He went to the college of St. Francis in Juliet and majored in Mathematics and worked for the environmental protection agency, got married and had twins. It was a wonderful life. Friends, on the other hand, will not let him forget that once there was a wisp of glory in his high school athletic career, as few have ever experienced. I did say that Dennis was different from his fellow teammates. In a way, his stunning record would never suggest his difference. When Dennis played basketball, he shot the ball with his feet and playing softball he pitched with one foot. As a football kicker, he really did not need what he did not have because you see Dennis, the superstar of de Sales High School, was born without arms.
Thanks for always being that model for our children and by maintaining continued positive interaction with all you encounter at our schools. Our character is built by the context that we live in. If de Sales High School wasn’t a supportive environment, the story above would not have been possible.
Thanks again and have a great weekend,