Eli was a tall, bright and athletic 12 year old. He threw the football like a pro, and he caught passes better than anyone else. Sam, who was shy, played an OK game. His throws didn’t spiral, and he tripped a lot during practice. So when Sam was placed on Eli’s after-school football team, Eli couldn’t stop picking on him.
“C’mon slowpoke, catch and run,” shouted Eli. “Football’s not that tough, klutz.”
Sam didn’t know how to respond. He decided to ignore Eli, hoping the name calling eventually would stop.
On a Sunday when there was no practice, Eli’s family went to Grandpa Lou’s house. Eli knew that his grandfather had escaped from the Nazis during World War II, hiding in the forests of Belarus until he was saved by locals. On this day, Eli wanted Grandpa Lou to tell him more of the story.
“I want you to know it wasn’t easy hiding in the woods,” said his grandfather quietly. “There were a few Jewish boys, and we were in the same class in school.” He took a deep breath. “We weren’t all friends, but we decided that we weren’t going to get sent away to the camps, so we hid.”
Eli leaned closer to his grandfather, who continued: “In fact, one was a boy who we had teased in school. His nickname was ‘Useless Avi.’ The funny thing was that Avi helped me in the end.”
Grandpa Lou paused, then said, “It’s a long story, but the main thing is that Avi always gave me half of his food. He saw I needed it. I was always hungry. He seemed to not need too much food to survive.”
Eli sat there listening, when Grandpa Lou suddenly sat up straight. He seemed in a daze as he yelled out, “I could’ve died without Avi’s food. Avi saved my life!”
Eli sat there and thought about “Useless Avi” and how his grandfather was alive only because of him. Eli’s mind raced to Sam and to all of the nasty names he had called him.
That night Eli couldn’t sleep. He had been super mean to the “useless” boy on his football team. What if he and Sam were both in the woods like Grandpa? Who knows, maybe Sam would save his life. Eli decided that he would now be extra nice to Sam.
At the next practice, Eli ran up to Sam and blurted, “Want to come over after practice for a toss on my lawn?”
Sam smiled his shy smile and softly answered, “Great.”
The other kids on the team didn’t know what had gotten into Eli, “Why are you being nice to the klutz?” one asked.
Eli simply smiled and said, “It’s a long story, but I owe my life to a kid like Sam.” And he proceeded to tell Grandpa Lou’s story.
1. How do you think Sam felt at the beginning of the story? What about Eli?
2. Name a few ways that kids judge each other as worthless. Discuss the possible ways that these same kids are valuable.