March 2019 TeamMates of the Month: Judgement Suspended
Jamil, a seventh-grader at Lefler Middle School, sits back in his chair, thinking. Before he answers any questions, there is a pause. In his mind he is sifting through ideas to get just the right sentiment before he speaks a word. His TeamMate, Larry, has learned to adjust to this quietness before speech. “There’s a depth to Jamil. I am learning to be patient in teasing it out,” Larry says.
At the beginning of their match, the two talked little, but they began a weekly tradition that stands to the present; each meeting Jamil and Larry begin with a firm handshake and eye contact. The meeting ends with the same practice. On one occasion, Jamil heard the bell and left quickly without the usual handshake, but Larry was impressed when he returned seconds later to look him in the eye and offer his hand.
Over the course of their several years as Teammates, Larry has noticed positive changes in Jamil. “He’s grown in his willingness to open up. At the beginning, games helped us to connect.” Their favorite games include chess, solitaire, and hangman.
Another favorite activity for the match is chatting about their favorite NBA teams. As time passes, they are also discussing subjects important to Jamil: racial issues, respect for his mother, and the importance of graduating from high school.
“I try to live life to the fullest,” says Jamil in his thoughtful manner.
Larry has helped him to try new things and think about how life sometimes goes how we want and often how it doesn’t. Jamil enjoys Larry’s stories about life and the facts that he shares with him. The favorite lesson Jamil has learned from his mentor is “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Larry has demonstrated a non-judgmental attitude that has impressed his mentee. Larry’s kindness is another attribute that Jamil admires in his mentor.
The admiration goes both ways. Jamil’s respect for his mother and his willingness to grow are two things Larry appreciates in Jamil, and his praise for his mentee continues. “Jamil is smart, focused, and he’s learned the importance of school and graduating,” he says.
Larry is also very proud of what Jamil chose to write on the duct tape bag the two made for a recent TeamMates community service project. “Jamil picked out the saying and wrote it on the bag himself,” Larry says. Jamil’s message speaks to the relationship he has with his mentor: “’Stay’ is a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary.” And “stay” is exactly what Larry and Jamil plan to do in their future friendship.