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Thank You Ethan

It’s football season!! The best time of year for many!! All levels are underway, from Junior High to High School, to College, to now NFL! There is football to watch 5 to 6 nights a week between all levels! It’s full-on football overload, causing a few later nights for some people, in turn creating some shorter nights of sleep! Unless you are me, and you are in bed watching, and you just fall asleep and miss all the endings! All the endings of anything, a game, a movie, a show, anything! Just ask my wife!

Nonetheless, it’s one of my favorite times of the year, football, fall weather on the horizon, cattle getting turned out on rye or corn stalks dotting the horizon, and hunting opportunities of many kinds. It’s the best season of the year! Friday nights show basic humanity still has a glimmer of hope with Friday Night Lights and High School Football! But this season is a little different. Football began to roll around, and the first Great Bend 8th Grade game began. The players are all sporting their jerseys on game day, Facebook is on overload with proud moms showing their love for their son and the great sport of football! As the time came for the boys to load on a bus to go to their game, Nash’s buddies left the classroom and he didn’t. He would have, but as you likely know, now he can’t. So for mom and dad, we were prepared for a rough evening and a rough pickup by Karen when she picked him up from school. For mom and dad, the day was rough. Rough because we so wanted Nash to be in his buddy's shoes. Leaving class early to go play an 8th-grade football game. We looked forward to being in the stands watching Nash with his very aggressive sport-playing nature, putting a hit on some kid!

Something happened that day when Karen picked up Nash. With full anticipation of full-blown tears coming from Nash’s eyes and tear ducts, not a single tear presented itself, and he was all smiles. Instead, he went home and made some money mowing. Mom and dad were relieved that it wasn’t what we anticipated would happen.

Fast forward 8 days, and it's the Great Bend High School Panther's first home football game. Karen and I aren’t talking about the game, but we both, in our own minds, are thinking about the home game. Thinking these thoughts – “Do we go? Will Nash want to go? Will Nash be able to get around so that not everyone is watching him? Will Nash feel comfortable going being the only kid in a wheelchair? What does Mac think? Are her friends likely going? Will she want to go? Can I watch the game without the frustration that my son will never be able to play? Can I watch the game and not go to a dark place? Can I watch the game and be happy for those kids that can play the game and happy for the parents of those players? Can Nash watch the game and not “go to a dark place”? How will he handle it, his thoughts, his emotions, his mental mindset?”

As you can imagine, we just didn’t talk about it, and we didn’t go…. We stayed home, but we did watch the live stream as some of our best friends have two sons playing and we still wanted to watch them even though it can be painful to watch high school or junior high football given our scenario. About partway through the game, Nash realized he hadn’t gotten a text from a buddy at the game asking him if he would like to come? This same buddy, told him in the text, he had a spot saved for him on the front row, and he could put his chair under the stands. Nash is terrible about having or looking on his phone (which is a good thing!), but he had missed this message until it was the second half. As he read the message, Karen and I began to look at each other wondering what Nash’s response would be. We knew it was too late to go now, but what about the future? Mac was sitting there and she piped up, “I would like to go to the next game.” Karen asked Nash, “What do you think?” And Nash responded, “Sure, I’d like to go.” Karen and I looked at each other, never saying a word to each other but each thinking, “This could be good. Maybe we shouldn’t be so selfish and we should have not avoided this emotional trap, and talked as a family on this for the benefit of our kids.”

Two things happened over this time frame of the full story I have written, or I should say, two lessons learned. The first is that no matter your situation, we as parents often overthink it and are more worried about the potential challenges than our kids are. We fully expected Nash to be a melt-down mess on the first 8th Grade Junior High Football game day when they all wore their jerseys and left early and he wasn’t. That doesn’t mean he won’t have a bad day on the next game day, but for that day, he won the day.

The next lesson, a caring young man named Ethan Somers displayed some compassion for his friend, and his simple text to Nash opened up the “elephant in the room” conversation about our family attending high school football games. He opened the door for us to have a family conversation on it, and allowed us to realize that our daughter wants to go so she can see her friends. In her quiet, go-with-the-flow nature, she just never voiced her desires. It also allowed us to discuss with Nash if he wanted to go and if so, how that may go. And of which, Ethan was offering to help it be as seamless and comfortable as possible.

Lastly, that simple text pushed Karen and I towards some of our own personal fears and emotions of attending a simple game of football in which we so desperately would love for our son Nash to be able to play, enjoy and grow in the experience just like his dad did. One simple text from an 8th grader helped push us past our fears. I’ll likely never attend a Junior High game because I just can’t… I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to watch Nash’s classmates play football. But, Ethan will likely get two parents to a high school football game, which I wasn’t sure would ever happen. Thank you, Ethan.

What I do know is Nash and I love speaking to high school football teams and inspiring them to never take the great game of football for granted! And when it is 3rd and 2, to dig deep and give it all you got, #playforNash and get the first down! Play your best game yet, EACH GAME!!


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