Monday, April 4, 2022

"True kindness is helping someone without expecting anything in return."



Coach Mike Krzyzewski , or "Coach K", has been a part of the college basketball world for 42 years.  With an impressive record of 1202-368, he is one of the most winning coaches in the world.  He led Duke University to 15 AAC championshiops, and Coach K is loved and respected by millions.

I am not writing today's post to offer congratulations on his recent retirement, nor to congratulate him on a job well done, although both are in order.  I am writing to tell my readers about a kindness from Coach K that endured for years, and changed a man's life.  Coach K set an example of acceptance and good will that everyone should follow.

The man is the late Steve Mitchell, a man with Down's, who sat behind Coach K for 37 years, from the 1980-81 season until his passing in June, 2017. 

When Coach K was having some  renovations done to his home, he met the Mitchell family and Steve. The only present Steve wanted for Christmas in 1980 was a ticket to a Dukes game.  Coach K made that happen, again and again, for the next 37 years. Steve Mitchell and his pregame handshake with Coach K became a regular part of each game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  What a long and beautiful friendship the two men enjoyed! 

I taught high school for 37 years and the Guidance Department put most of the district's students with special needs into my English and Theater classes.  I never minded - these students taught me far more than I ever taught them.  I think Coach K may think the same thing about his friendship with Steve Mitchell; although both benefitted from the friendship, I feel sure that Coach K is richer because of knowing Steve. 

I saw this letter below to Coach K on Facebook.  It is a post from November of 2020, from a mother who is a parent of a child with special needs.  She recognizes the difference Coach K made for Steve Mitchell as she thinks about her own child. It is a heartfelt and beautiful letter, reminding the reader that all people with special needs just want to be accepted as "normal", whatever that is.

Thank you, Coach K, for the kindness you have bestowed upon those who can never pay you back. You are not just a winning coach, you are a fine man. 

Dear Coach K,
I've never met you, though you've walked past me many times on a stretch of beach called Pine Knoll Shores. I didn't want to bother you, but wish I had known about your gift to Steve Mitchell. His departure from this earth has offered the story of a life well-lived. Steve was the man who sat behind you in Duke University's Cameron Indoor Stadium for the last 37 years and I know you miss him this season.
He did a lot in his sixty plus years. He was born with Down syndrome and his family shrugged off the doctors and took him right home. He was integrated in an era that made his parents ground breakers; school or church, Steve was there. I am a special needs mama too and with parenthood comes advocacy, their forging a path has benefited so many. You called Steve "a good friend who had some challenges." What a gift of inclusive language.
The story goes that in 1980 the only thing Steve Mitchell wanted for Christmas was a Duke basketball ticket, not an easy score, but Steve's brother had a construction company and was hired to renovate the new coach’s, Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski, house. He asked you how one might find a ticket to buy and explained his brother’s Christmas wish.
“He can sit behind me,” you said. Did you know how life changing that gift would be?
The following season, Steve wrote you a letter saying, “Coach, I know we’re going to have another great year. I was hoping that I could sit near you again.” You said yes to a family that may have heard no far more often. He wrote you a letter every year for 37 years and this is the first season that a ticket, reserved for one Steve Mitchell, isn’t waiting at will call. Steve would collect his ticket and make his way to his seat behind you (usually with the help of his favorite usher, Fran), a tradition that was life changing for his self-confidence, according to his family. You shook his hand before every game.
Thank you, Coach K.
Mamas of special needs kids know that kindness extends far beyond team affiliation and we know that our team is the best of all. Welcome to the club. And to Steve? Godspeed, my friend and thank you.
Adrian (Amos's mom)

Here is a link to a nice story about Steve Mitchell and Coach K. 

To read more about Coach K's kindess, please click on the link below.  It also features a great picture of the pre-game handshake between Steven and Coach K.

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestionsRittman Publishing, LLC ®

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Visit Dede's web page for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37
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