The longer I live, the more I believe in our youth. To say it differently, the older I get the more I realize how our youth have so much to teach us about life and love. When I watch neo-Nazis, full of fear, spread hate and bigotry, it cheers me to see young people love all people, especially those who may be different.
The story of Ryan Ronsse
Recently I watched a story on KAKE about Ryan Ronsse, a senior at McPherson High School. Although Ryan has down syndrome, he is still a critical member of the McPherson Bullpup football team. He is not able to play on the field. But he plays an important role off the field, from the sidelines, encouraging every player to be his best.
A few quotes from the story
“I think Ryan is the soul of our team. He’s got a smile on his face every single day; he brings so much energy to this team. We can really bounce off of Ryan. A long day of practice we can go in to see Ryan in the locker room with a big smile on his face knowing everything is going to be alright,” senior Bullpup Wyatt Seidel said.
“He’s dependable and he’s always in a good mood, he’s always pumping us up and he’s always got a smile on his face, so it’s good to have,” senior Bullpup Thomas Diggs added.
That’s why in a preseason scrimmage they decided to reward their teammate drawing up a play that allowed Ronsse to score a touchdown.
“It’s actually just our bread and butter. It’s our power play down hill and we got into the huddle. The kids were aware of what was going on and as soon as we broke the huddle the kids said, we know we want to get this one in for Ryan,” head coach Jace Pavlovich said.
After scoring the touchdown, Ronsse did the same dance he does after every Bullpup win.
Why Ryan Ronsse’s story matters to me
I had to ask myself why this video moved me emotionally and spiritually. There are several reasons when I stop and think about it. First, belonging is vitally important to well-being. Everyone, to be whole, has to have a place where we belong and feel at home. We all know that for most people given to gangs, the primary reason is a place to belong. Ryan has his place where he knows that others love and value him.
Secondly, I have a special place in my heart for people with Down syndrome. They have a special connection with the Lord and in my experience, wherever they are, something deeply spiritual happens. When I watched the video about Ryan, I saw a living model of how the church of Jesus is to function. We must offer a place that welcomes and values all people, a place where all people encourage each other to be and become all that God would desire.
Finally, when young people like those on the McPherson High football team show such genuine kindness, love, and caring toward Ryan, it reminds me that good is stronger than evil, light is brighter than darkness, and hope is more powerful than despair.
For high schoolers to know and show so much goodness, is not only amazing, but divine. Be encouraged!
–Rev. Jeff Gannon