I stood on the playing field outside Churchill Junior High in Galesburg, Ill., just staring at my feet and waiting; it was the most painful time of the day—P.E. class—when kids chose who was going to play on their teams.
I’d say a silent prayer.
“Don’t let me be last; don’t let me be last.”
But, of course, I usually was the last one chosen.
And they wouldn’t even call my name. The team captain would just point, and I’d shuffle over.
God gave me a lot of gifts, but athletic ability was never one of them. I was always tall for my age and never particularly coordinated. Baseballs would buzz by my glove, and basketballs turned into air balls seconds after leaving my fingertips.
While other kids viewed gym class as something like recess, I viewed it as a torture, a painful ritual of youth.
Back when I was an education reporter, I was assured that this practice of peer selection of teammates had been phased out by gym teachers pretty much everywhere. It was recognized as detrimental to the development of children.
So, imagine my surprise when I learned that is how they sometimes select teams at the school where my daughters attend.
Now, I know I will inevitably hear from readers who will say, “Life is tough; kids need to learn that early.”
I’d just point out that we are talking about 10-year-olds and needlessly damaging a child’s self-esteem rarely ends with a positive result.
And as adults, we get to pick what teams we want to join. When you’re a kid, not so much.
Regardless, it was my daughter Anna’s turn one day to be a team captain, and what she did ruffled some feathers. She picked the worst players first.
“I felt bad for those kids who every week get picked last,” she told me. “So, they were first ones I picked when it was my turn.”
Anna is one of the kindest people I know.
But, her decision wasn’t particularly popular. One classmate snarled, “Now we are going to lose because you picked those people.”
Anna’s response was simple, “You wouldn’t like to be the one always picked last, would you?”
I couldn’t help but wonder if the classmate was angry because she didn’t like the feeling of not being among the first picked.
Empathy doesn’t come easily for some people. The objectivist thinker Ayn Rand argued that individuals should always act in their own self-interest and that selfishness is a good thing.
Sadly, many libertarians and conservatives extol Rand’s ideas.
While I identify as a libertarian, I find Rand’s view of the world a frightening one.
I’m not alone. The late Christian thinker Chuck Colson said that objectivist philosophy is the “antithesis of Christianity” and that Rand’s followers are “undermining the Gospel.”
So, I was delighted by my daughter Anna’s actions.
She was following the philosophy of the one who said, “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
Editor’s note: Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. He can be contacted at email@example.com.