96: Brains and Brawn

96: Brains and Brawn

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Brains and Brawn

Do the right thing.
It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

~Mark Twain

It was strange to us how we kids from the orphanage were always the last to be picked when it came to any type of a game at school—baseball, football, and even dodge ball. It didn’t seem to make a difference if we were tall or short, thin or fat, fast or slow. The fact that we came from the orphanage appeared to be all that mattered to those who did the choosing.

I am not sure what came over me the day the teacher picked me to be one of the captains of the dodge ball team. I was rather shocked—even the teacher treated us as though we were different from the other kids. This time, I decided, my team was going to win. I knew who was the fastest and who had the best aim. This was the day I was going to become the winner. As we gathered in a group on the schoolground, the teacher flipped a coin to see who would be the first to pick.

“Heads,” yelled Mrs. Cherry, the teacher.

I smiled, since I was the one who had picked heads. I am not sure what came over me at that moment. Winning the game didn’t seem so important to me now. I looked around the large group of boys and my eyes stopped at Jeffrey. He was slow and weighed a whopping ninety-eight pounds.

“JEFFREY!” I yelled as I pointed at him.

He looked up in total shock as he began to move his massive body toward me.

“You picked me?” he asked.

I reached over and patted him on the back.

My next pick was Leonard. He was a small boy who wore black, thick-rimmed glasses and never combed his hair. He was the quiet type and was not liked by very many of the popular kids. He was, without a doubt, the brain of the class. The remainder of my picks were kids I knew from the orphanage or kids who were always the last to be picked—kids who never got to play.

“He picked a bunch of losers. We’re gonna win without even trying,” said the captain of the other team.

“We’re gonna lose,” said Jeffrey as our team huddled in a tight circle.

“Of course, we’re gonna lose,” I told them.

“Then why did you pick me?” asked Jeffrey.

“And why did you pick me? I can’t see without my glasses,” said Leonard.

As the game started, I made sure Jeffrey stood behind the ones of us who were faster. That way, he could get out of the way of the ball before it reached him. I made sure that my team didn’t stay in the center of the circle. We moved around the circle, rather than across the circle. That seemed to give us a big advantage.

The ball was thrown five or six times before Robert was hit, and another five or six times before the ball hit Wayne. One at a time, my team members were hit and fell out. They hit us with the ball as hard as they could, slamming the ball against our backs when we could not get out of the way. Their team laughed and mocked us the entire time. Soon it was down to just Jeffrey and me.

“I can’t believe it’s just you and me,” said Jeffrey panting as hard as he could.

“Just stay behind me,” I said.

“Get that fat Jeffrey kid,” yelled one of their team members.

They threw the ball ten more times without hitting either one of us. The harder they threw, the more they missed and the madder they seemed to get.

“Okay, that’s enough. You’re getting too rough,” yelled Mrs. Cherry.

I will never forget the look on Jeffrey’s face when the game ended. He could hardly believe that he had made it that far. When Jeffrey and I went to the bathroom to wash up, he had tears in his eyes.

“You made me feel good by picking me first,” he said, as he stood crying over the sink.

I learned a very good lesson that day. We were just a bunch of kids who were not popular at all. Earlier that morning, Mrs. Cherry had talked to us about “brains” and “brawn.” She told us that if we were to succeed in life, we had to learn to use all of our skills, and that we had to work together as a team. I just wanted to see if the teacher really knew what she was talking about.

~Roger Dean Kiser

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