They may be maligned in some circles and treated as cliches in others, they may face unimaginable horrors in Halloween movies at a rate far greater than most and they may be subjected to unfair stereotypes for more reasons than can be listed in this space, but here’s the truth:
We need cheerleaders.
The dance routines on the sidelines? The human pyramids? Maybe not so much. And trust me, being able to do the splits or to kick over your own head is totally overrated.
For any number of reasons, we won’t go into the subject of letter sweaters and pleated skirts, and we will not debate whether or not pompoms qualify as an accessory.
Cheerleaders are such an integral part of athletic life that it’s hard to imagine one without the other – so much so that professional teams had to create professional cheerleaders to preserve the image.
The enthusiasm is infectious, even if some of the individual cheers they lead haven’t changed much since the Truman administration (2-4-6-8, who do we app-re-ciate …). The routines have become more intricate and athletic – so much so that many squads have added male cheerleaders with bulging biceps who are tasked with throwing the smallest cheerleaders high into the air, and not surprisingly, catching them when they come back down.
The tunnels they make as their team comes out of the locker room, complete with shaking pompoms, are fun and make a nice visual, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
In fact, we’re not even talking about cheerleaders as a group, per se.
We all need cheerleaders. And we all need to become cheerleaders.
A credit card made fun of the idea, sending Peyton Manning out to lead cheers for everyday people (“Let’s go insurance adjusters, let’s go!”). And really, who among us REALLY has the legs for a short, short skirt.
But it’s a good idea, nonetheless.
University High School is onto something.
A handful of senior boys decided that they could make a difference by standing outside the main entrance to the school one day a week and greeting their fellow students with cheers of “Have a great day!” offering fist bumps and high-fives.
It’s a quintessential random act of kindness.
In fact, the group has already spawned its own spinoff.
A group of sophomore boys liked the idea so much they set up their own welcome group at another entrance.
“The guys heard about it and said ‘Hey, that’s OUR idea!’ ” leadership teacher Samantha Kern said. “I told them ‘Hey, you don’t get it! These boys are following your lead. You’ve inspired them to do something to help make a difference, too. You are already creating the kind of leaders we need to keep making this school a better place.’
“They got it.”
Small acts, random acts of kindness and generosity are needed in this world. They make a difference.
Some of us grew up on them. Pulling out a chair, opening a door, saying please and thank you – they were just things you did.
Margaret Mead, the iconic cultural anthropologist, put it into words:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
It doesn’t cost us a thing to say “good morning” to people we pass on the way to work. Or to say “thank you” when the waiter or waitress fills your coffee cup without asking – and if I do it while making actual eye contact, so much the better.
If I tell the people around me that I appreciate them, that I value both them and the work they do, it takes nothing away from me and gives them a reason to smile. That’s a win-win situation.
Life conspires to make us all feel anonymous. Smartphones and earbuds tune us all into our own private little world with a personal playlist.
We’ve all made the mistake of answering someone talking next to us before realizing they’re talking on their phone and not talking to us. We’ve all done that, right? It’s not just me?
We’re used to cheering the quarterback for throwing that touchdown pass and the shooting guard for knocking down that 3-pointer.
It’s time to spread it around a little.
Because you don’t need pompoms to spread the good cheer.
Steve Christilaw can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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