Mr. America of the Second Grade

A few years back, my son Austin came home from the first day of second grade with a sparkle in his eye. Before I could ask how his day had been, words about his new friend began to tumble out.

Photo by StuSeeger [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Mind you, my son has never had a hard time making friends, but this one sounded like Mr. America of the Second Grade. Austin described his new friend as kind, helpful, honest, hardworking, accepting, not a complainer, and a sports enthusiast, especially of basketball. I always enjoyed meeting my kids’ new friends, so I planned to meet them on the school playground the following day.

I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Cheering for the Underdog

Sure enough, my blonde-haired, blue-eyed son was standing next to Mr. America of the Second Grade at the basketball hoops after school . . . just the two of them. They didn’t see me arrive, so I sat quietly and watched as they forged a new friendship . . . a friendship we fondly remember to this day. You see, Mr. America of the Second Grade clung to tattered crutches, upon which he bent slightly to one side due to an obvious curve in his spine. His legs were bound by silver braces; his small head was topped with a short tuft of dark curls.

I watched one air ball after another fly about the basketball court. Austin repeatedly retrieved the basketball while Mr. America of the Second Grade would correct his posture and readjust his leg bindings and attempt another basket . . . over and over again. As I wiped welled-up tears from my eyes, their faint laughter floated across the playground.

After a while, I watched Austin walk over to Mr. America of the Second Grade, muster all his little-boy strength, and sensitively lift his friend close to the hoop.

With only an ounce of energy left, Mr. America of the Second Grade lobbed the enormous ball. I held my breath and watched it bounce, bobble, and finally slip through the net.

I bounded out of my car and cheered as if they were the first two second-grade NBA champions!

God’s Ways: Infinitely Better Than Our Ways

Years have passed since then. Mr. America of the Second Grade never leapt tall buildings in a single bound; he wasn’t able to take one step without support. Yet he was one of my son’s best friends because he was faithful and true, kind and honest. (Are you? Am I?)

All of this reminds me of the biblical accounts of King Saul and King David. First Samuel 9 tells us that Saul was beyond impressive. He was taller and better looking than all the men in Israel, but ultimately his kingship ended in failure. In God’s plan, David followed Saul as king. David was the small shepherd who liked music and who eventually messed up too . . . but because he was a man after God’s own heart, his kingship ended well.

Both men represent humanity in full color.

I love God’s ways because they make no human sense most of the time. God told Samuel before anointing David:

Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature . . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7–8)

I LOVE THAT! God said to Samuel, in effect, “Get past David’s rag-tag appearance; David is MY choice . . . anoint him!” And through this kingly line—in spite of its many successes and failures—came the perfect Savior of the world, Jesus.

Again and again, God chooses the weak things of this world to magnify His majesty (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).

He calls us to see internal fortitude in those whom the world labels “utter failures.”

Let Me Hear from You

Most likely, there is a struggle with this somewhere in your life. Either you or your child may have been labeled negatively. I understand . . . it’s a deeply painful wound.

But God can heal, so let Him into your hurt and ask Him to heal your wounds. For those who are parents, God may have given you a child with differences. On earth, there is much pain at times because this world is so cold. But that special child is not a mistake!

Let’s talk about finding purpose in it all.

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15 thoughts on “Mr. America of the Second Grade

  1. Colleen,
    What a wonderful sweet story to share. (It brought tears to my eyes) I wish all children acted like your son towards children that have special challenges or issues.
    Doing life is not easy with a child that has some challenges. Sometimes the pain from that is great and I just try to “fix” things instead of trusting and turning it over to God. I guess I need to work on that.
    Thank you again for sharing this story with us.

    • Oh Vicki,
      So great to connect with you once again. I’ve decided that life in general isn’t so easy; add a child that struggles and siblings that didn’t ask for all the mess and it can be complicated. Thankfully, my son Austin has always had an incredibly tender heart which is why he chose to be with those who had needs. Siblings are pushed in many ways…different but yet difficult so often. I think we all need to be reminded that we are not to fix life but to trust the God who gave us life…and live it to the fullest. That is success in my book. And you know what, connecting with friends like you provide comfort and companionship along the way….so thank you too. Love hearing from you! Would love to hear how you are doing when you have time…what you are letting go of or the Lord is asking you to let go of…that’s a tough one! Anyway, it’s great to connect once again. Colleen

      • Hi Colleen…It’s great to hear from you. I hope you and your family are doing well. Thank you for thinking of me and sending me the link. I will definitely check it out. I do hope I can participate without being on Facebook. I know we’re in Bay Area/Silicon Valley and we don’t participate in FB 🙂 So I hope there are other ways to be involved.

        I’m doing ok and I still continue to work on turning to and trusting God in with everything. I’m definitely a work in progress and am so grateful that God and my family still love me in spite of myself.

        This weekend is busy since we’re heading down to So Cal for a 1/2 Marathon this weekend but I definitely would like to find out more about Key Ministry and participate accordingly.

        Blessings, Vicki

          • Colleen…..That’s great that I can participate without FB.
            I’m actually sitting this race out this time. It’s the Avengers 1/2 Marathon at Disneyland. I’m the cheer leader for my super hero husband and our son will be participating in the kids race Sat. So our signs are ready and I’ve got a cow bell and I’m not afraid to use it. We’ll be cheering our super hero and other runners on throughout the course. I’m actually sad that I’m sitting this one out but it’s not really a theme I’m interested in.
            Fortunately I have a race to look forward to next year.
            How are you doing with the running??

          • Vicki,
            Get that ol’ cow bell out there and ring it loud!!!! I’m thrilled you are cheering on such a hero and look forward to hearing about the finish line….this year and next. I have started running again…..don’t fall over or pass out! I’m way out of shape and trying to get the ol’ cardio muscles working as they should be. It’s been one heck of a year and I’ve found running is once again, keeps things sane around here. You are quite an inspiration so keep up the connecting when you can….it’s great to have someone who knows the benefits far outweigh the liabilities. And cheer on your super hero’s for me! Great to connect with you again. Colleen

          • I am SO excited to hear you running again. Good for you !!! We need to keep each other accountable with our workouts. Christmas season fast approaching….you know that’s the first thing that we will let slide. We must find or make the time to do it even if its for a few minutes.
            Have you heard of Fitbit ?? It’s been the rage out here for years and it a really neat little device that tracks your steps, lbs, sleep. It has a app also tracks exercise, challenges, and friends. It can also help encourage each other. Ck it out and if you do have it we can friend each other and encourage each other that way too.

          • Vicki,
            Okay, you are one fitness fan…I love it. I have heard of fitness apps but not specific ones. What I’m finding is my hips hurt from running and they didn’t before. I run on a treadmill, need to maybe just get back to more consistency and of course, those creeping lbs you mentioned…yes, and they go from creeping to running quite fast. I will check out the ones you mentioned just to see how many steps I walk…I will probably be shocked when I see how FEW they are compared to how it used to be. But what an inspiration you are. Love it. By the way, the on line conference (not connected to Facebook) continues and I’ll be hosting a chat with the founder and president of Key Ministry who is hosting the conference. Here’s tonight’s line up in case you have time to join us for our chat. Go to Starts tonight at 8:00 PM-10:00 PM Eastern. Video schedule:
            8:00 PM (7:00 CST) Joni Keynote
            8:15 PM (7:15 CST) My interview with Joni and Ken
            9:25 PM Mike Woods video
            9:35 PM Emily Colson
            9:50 PM Beth Golik
            Great to connect with you again Vicki, you are such an inspiration! Have a great day, Colleen

          • Hi Colleen,
            I want to thank you again for letting me know of the conference. In spite of leaving very early to travel down south, we still did not arrive in Southern Calif early enough for me to join you on the chat. I’m disappointed, but I was able to sign up to emails and hope to be able to participate when future ones take place. I hope it was a great success and I look forward to attending your next one. Please let me know when it something like that comes up again.
            On the exercise note….We survived Marathon weekend. Both my super hero’s ran their races well and I cheered with great gusto with my cow bell !!!
            Sorry to hear that your hips bother you when running. Maybe it could be fixed with a different type of running shoe. Running stores can be so helpful with things like that. There are so many types of shoes out there and I know once I found the proper shoe for my foot hip & lower back issues where much better.
            I wish you are week filled with blessings. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I just want to tell you that I am very grateful for your work with your special needs blog and I am always grateful for your wisdom and thoughtful comments.

          • Vicki,
            Oh my gosh…they finished the race…such wonderful news. I bet your presence was incredibly encouraging; cow bells and all!!! = ) We are trying to figure out the hip issue…there isn’t a pattern to follow yet which makes it a bit more difficult. On days when I don’t exercise, it can hurt, on days when I do, the next morning it feels better…sometimes. So it could be a joint issue, weight bearing issue, age and ‘wear and tear’ issue, and over pronation along with scoliosis doesn’t help, So, I’m trying to find a pattern but it may take a while. Shoe recommendations are always welcomed! = ) Thank you for your kinds words about Thanksgiving and the season. As the blog grows, I am most thankful to meet people like you…those who have no pretense, a desire to honor the Lord, an interest in helping others, and accept life as it is rather than as we expected it to be. Sounds so familiar doesn’t it. I hope you and your family are able to rest and recover after the race; and enjoy a wonderful holiday feast of togetherness. Feel free to pass along your advice about running; I’m so willing to learn what has worked/has not worked for you. Have a wonderful week. Colleen

          • Colleen,
            Just wanted to let you know I too suffer from over pronation and have scoliosis which I’ve been receiving treatment (chiropractic care) since early teen –long ago 🙂 Just a thought since I can relate to pronation and spine issues, I wear a stability shoe from Saucony, “The Stabil CS3” I love this shoe and over the years they change up the color and have made slight changes but overall have kept the “stability” in the shoe. Everything else might hurt when running but I believe that the right pair of shoes can make the difference with back issues.
            Knowing that your trying to exercise and put some miles in also will help me keep on track and stay motivated too.

          • Vicki, Amazing, I used to run in Saucony for years. Nike also was great for arch support but loved the others too. My husband see’s a chiropractor often due to his spine stuff; I just don’t have time for more doc appointments right now. But, I’m so glad you and I can connect on running and spine issues and growing older…just not like it used to be but that’s okay. Now that my daughter’s wedding is done, there will be more time for exercise which I so need. It’s been a hard year… 2014… but God has remained faithful. Love being able to connect with you here; thank you so much! In case I do chose to see the chiropractor some day, what has helped you the most? Just in case. = ) Have a wonderful day. Colleen
            Colleen Swindoll-Thompson

  2. Colleen, this post totally made me grin and remember the Mr. and Miss America’s who populated my years as a teacher. If the curly-haired boy was Mr. America, your son was surely first runner up! Thanks for adding the post to’s Tuesday link up.