The Best Award
I saw him approaching — walking awkwardly with his usual dole expression. Coach had just told us to find a partner for the upcoming doubles tournament. For a split second, I looked around for one of my friends who would assure me a competitive edge in the games. Rudyard Kipling once said, “I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble”. As Frank made eye contact with me, I realized that I couldn’t turn my back on him. Little did I realize that by making the best of the situation and in seeing the best in Frank, the rewards would be even greater than I expected.
I use to play tennis for the Queensberry Country Club over the summer, and there was a lot of anticipation about the doubles tournaments in July. We all expected to be on the stage at awards night being announced the double champions of the summer. I knew that Frank had asked me to be his partner because I would often stick up for him when others teased him. While others would be entertained by his defensive behavior, I sympathized with him. At first I was concerned on how we would do in the tournament, even if we would win the first game. Then I told myself that it would make Frank really happy if I said yes because I knew that nobody else would accept him as a partner. I told him I would be his partner, and for the first time I saw a real smile on his face. I may have been kissing my chance at the championship goodbye, but I felt proud of myself for making Frank happy.
Our first game of the tournament was two days later, and I was very nervous about how we’d do. To my surprise, Frank had some nice overheads and forehand shots. I told him he did a good job, and he played better than I had ever seen him play before. As I kept encouraging Frank, he in return complimented me on my playing. Shot after shot, positive energy flowed between us as we started to believe that we could actually win this game together.
We won the whole tournament. We were both very excited about being the champs, but that was not the only reason I was happy. By being Frank’s partner, I did more than help him win the tennis tournament and improve his tennis skills. He started to get along with the other kids better. By being nice to him and complimenting him on his playing, I was able to help Frank see the best in himself, as well as see the good things in other people.
Awards night that year was like no other. The other team members gave us high fives as we proceeded to the stage. As Frank held the trophy above his head (and I stood by his side smiling), the whole crowd chanted his name. I looked around and saw that everyone was genuinely happy. The atmosphere in the club had been transformed for all of us. Though it was difficult, I was glad that I had made the decision to be Frank’s partner that day.
We shouldn’t be so quick to judge others. Everybody has positive attributes that we can recognize, respect and enjoy. Frank wasn’t very athletic, but with my encouragement and friendship, he began to believe in himself and his abilities. When other people believe in us, it inspires us to keep going and try harder. We can accomplish anything as long as we have the support and friendship of others. By recognizing the best in everyone, we not only have an impact on our direct relationships, but perhaps an effect on our communities, as well. I know there will be a lot of Franks in my life, and I’ve learned that embracing their differences can enrich my own life.