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ONE SMALL STEP



"Don't want to play football with no monkey," said the boy as he began choosing the members for his team.

The little black boy did not say a word. He just stood with his hands in his pockets.

One at a time, the team captains began to make their picks. I knew I would be one of the last ones picked, because I was from the orphanage. Being from the orphanage was like having a disease of some sort. No matter how fast you could run and how good you could throw the ball, it made absolutely no difference to the team captains when they were choosing their teams.

"I guess I'll take Dumbo," said one of the captains as he pointed at me.

I had been called "Dumbo" for years, mainly because my ears stuck out like that of Dumbo the Elephant. As much as it hurt me, I always tried to let those words just roll off my back. I would just continue on and act as though nothing had ever been said about my ears.

"That nigger is the last one left and I ain't picking no nigger to play with," said the other captain.

"You gotta pick him or the teams are gonna be uneven," said the first captain.

"I ain't playing football with no monkey," the captain repeated again.

The first captain walked up to the group of boys and with the heel of his shoe, he drew a line in the dirt in front of us.

"Anyone who wants the nigger to play, step across this here line," he said pointing down at the ground.

Not one kid moved a muscle. I wanted the Negro kid to play so the teams would be even. If he did not get to play, then I would most likely get dropped as the teams had to be even to play the game fairly. I wanted to step across the line, but I was afraid of what the other boys might say to me. From out of the blue, one of the other boys at the far end of the group stepped across the line. With my heart beating 90 miles per hour, I too stepped across the line. Then another boy stepped across and another, and then another, until all the boys had crossed the dirt line.

"I told you. I ain't playing football with no monkey," said the captain as he reached down and picked up his football.

He stood by himself pitching the ball back and forth between his right and left hands. Not one boy said a word and not one boy moved back across the line.

"All you guys can eat S%$#," he said as he turned and began walking toward the entrance of the playground.

I learned a very good lesson that day. I saw that 'true power' is not in the hands of any one individual. It is in the group as a whole. It is necessary for us to decide what is truly ‘right’ and then have the heart and the backbone to step forward together as one.

I stepped across the line, because I wanted to play football. Larry Evans had polio and he had only one good arm. He stepped across the line, because it was the right thing to do.

Every time I see the film of the United States landing on the moon and the astronaut saying, "One small step for man. One giant step for mankind," I smile and think of 10-year-old Larry Evans taking his one small, brave step for mankind.



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