Our school was pretty small. It had only about twenty kids in each class, so everybody got to know everybody else pretty well. From kindergarten on, I always had plenty of friends. But a few kids in each class were a little shy, and the rest of us didn’t always try to bring them into our activities.
I remember Randolph especially. He was really quiet and never said anything in class. The teacher sometimes asked, “What do you think, Randolph?” just to get him to talk. I never played much with Randolph, but it wasn’t because I didn’t like him. He was just too quiet. At recess he would usually to off to play by himself or sometimes with one other boy.
That was the way it was until the fourth grade. Then Jon moved to town. Jon was a great guy, and everybody liked him, including me. But he was so good at sports that all the guys made him their hero. I had been the leader, and I was still everybody’s friend, but Jon was their hero!
One day I was a little late getting outside for recess. When I did get outside, the kids had already started a soccer game, and it didn’t look like there was any room for me. So I went over to the tetherball and started hitting it around the pole. Then I saw Randolph. He was standing to the side just watching the soccer game. I guess that’s what he usually did, just watched. I called, “Hey, Randolph, want to play tetherball with me?”
He looked kind of funny for a minute. I guess he wasn’t used to being asked, because he said, “Me?”
I said, “Yeah, sure, you.”
We had a good time, and that afternoon at recess we played tetherball some more. We laughed a lot, and Randolph even talked a little. It made me feel good to see him open up like that.
The next day at morning recess, Randolph and I headed for the tetherball pole again. We’d just started, when Jon came over to me and said, “Hey, don’t you want to play soccer with us?”
I felt pretty good that Jon had asked me, since he usually had all his friends around him, so I said, “Sure,” and ran to get in place.
Then I looked back. There was Randolph, just standing alone by the tetherball, bopping it a little bit. I hollered, “Hey, Randolph, come on over. We need you to play too.”
He looked that funny way again, like he did the first time I asked him to play tetherball. I said, “Randolph, I’m not playing unless you do.”
Then the greatest thing happened. Jon spoke up and said, “Right, Randolph. We need you too. Come on.”
And Randolph came running over, grinning the biggest grin I ever saw.