Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mentchlikeit – the code of behaviour that involves acting like a mentch. Living an honest and compassionate life.

Expressions of mentchlikeit can be found in the most surprising of places. Take the Sports section. Though we might expect examples of sportsmanship to be elucidated in the tales of games and competitions that fill the pages of the D section, I have found most articles focus on statistics, accounts of athletic prowess, and the all too frequent fan-incited riot.

This past weekend -- the one when I got to read the paper cover-to-cover -- I came across one of those feel-good stories that one might see as a made-for-TV movie on the Lifetime channel. Even without any overacting and hyperbolic dialogue, this story moved me to tears.

Responding to the cries of the crowd ("Put Kevin in! Put Kevin in!"), and with just five minutes remaining in the last home varsity game of the season, the coach put team manager Kevin Cogan on the court. The ball was passed to Kevin, who dribbled up to the basket and made the layup as he had done so many times in practice. The gym exploded with cheers from both sides of the court. Why the overwhelming response? This team manager has cerebral palsy.

The story in-and-of-itself is heartwarming. The line that really got me, however, was a quote from the team captain, J.J. Hernandez. "We played hard defense to get a lead and get Kevin in." This didn't just happen because a coach instructed his guys to give the poor disabled kid a chance to fulfill a dream. This happened because a compassionate group of young men saw an opportunity to help a teammate and embraced it. They fought hard to ensure the lead necessary to bring Kevin onto the court.

Is mentchlikeit of this order rare? I'd like to think not. I believe that the world is filled with people who are compassionate, kind, and giving. People who respond to the Divine Spark in others by extending themselves in ways both large and small.

But for those times when we lose hold of our optimism, we can remember Kevin, J.J. and the boys from Fullerton Union High.

No comments: