The young man was dressed for the cold wind that was now whipping across the destruction lying at his feet and as far as the eye could see. The hood of his sweatshirt was pulled tightly around his head and face. He was there to help in any way he could.
His football conditioning resulted in physical strength but nothing prepares you for the job ahead when your neighbors' homes' have been reduced to rubble.
But he was there with two hands and a strong back ready to help. He didn't have to be there. He could have retreated to the safety of his home that had been spared from the tornado.
He should have been thinking about the upcoming football playoff game his team would be playing the next weekend.
When asked by the national news media that had descended upon his Illinois hometown why he was there instead of being on the practice field, the teen did not hesitate. He simply said, "It's the right thing to do."
Imagine the wisdom and compassion behind those words spoken by a kid who is far from being a full-fledged adult. I would want that young man working in my office someday. I would love to have him sitting next to me in church or teaching my kids in school. Someone raised him well.
He gets it, and his parents, his team and his community should be proud of him. I am and I don't even know his name. All I do know is that eight of his teammates and several of his assistant coaches lost their homes and the basic necessities of life that make us individuals.
They no longer had the class photos or trophies. Their computers and CDs were forever lost to the tangled mess that followed the violent weather. Their homes and vehicles are gone.
Just like our Ohio Valley where football is king, the small Illinois towns affected by the tornadoes also were looking forward to football playoffs. Washington Central High School's undefeated football team is scheduled to play Springfield Sacred Heart in a state playoff game this weekend.
Sacred Heart was not physically affected by the storm yet their hearts were. That team and its town chartered six buses to bring the Washington Central team and its fans to the game. And that's not all. They will feed them all as well.
Sacred Heart player Tim Zock said, "It's bigger than football. They're people just like us, they're not just a football team. They're not just a jersey and a helmet, they're actual people."
Despite the wildly weird and sometimes ugly stuff we see and read about our youth, I'm not worried about this generation any longer. For just when things look their darkest, a light beams from beneath a hooded sweatshirt and a football jersey. And where there is light there is hope.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.