Leaders get lots of attention, accolades, and in some cases the roar of the crowd.  This story is about one of them.  Not for what he did in front of the cheering crowds, but for what he did in his own back yard by standing up for the little guy – or more specifically MY little guy.

My son’s Christopher and Nicholas are 25 months apart in age, and like most younger brothers, Nicholas idolized Christopher .  He was always tagging along and wanted to do everything Christopher and his friends did.

In 1995, the Arizona Cardinals got a new quarterback and we got a new neighbor across the street.  But, that was not the BIG news at our house.  The big news was that they had two boys just the right age to to be awesome playmates.  Chris was 6 and Nick was  4.  The new kids, Matt and Mikey, were 7 and 5.

Like all boys that age, I am sure that the older ones were less than thrilled to have a tag-along-toddler shadowing their every move, but tag along Nick did.

Summer in Arizona is HOT and swimming is the most common outdoor activity for our kids.  If you have a pool, like many of us do, swimming lessons start early.  But even then, you have to be really careful and never take your eyes off them for a minute.

Nick as a child was fearless and he loved the water.  He would jump in every chance he got.. from the side of the pool or the diving board, off the dock into the lake at his Grandparents’ house, from the swim platform of our boat… if Nick was around water, get ready for a splash.  He was a true water baby.

Now this was fun for him, but for a frazzled dad trying to keep an eye on the kids playing by the pool, it was a bit of a challenge.  So my neighbor came up with a new rule.  He got a little life jacket and put it on Nick telling him that if he wanted to stay and play with the big boys, he had to keep it on.

It was an ingenuous solution except for one thing.  All the other kids started making fun of him until he was in tears.  Group ridicule just does not sit well, especially with a 4 year old.

“That’s it” my neighbor said.  “Everyone out of the pool but Nick.  He and I are going play.”

And  they did while the other kids had to sit in the hot sun and watch.

My neighbor didn’t tell me this story.  My kids did as we discussed their day at the dinner table  that night.  That day, my neighbor had become a true hero in the eyes of my youngest son.

Dave Krieg may go down in the annuals of sports history for his leadership and stats as quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and Tennessee Oilers/Titans, but for me he will go down in history as the leader who taught my sons and his that looking out for the little guy is everyone’s responsibility.

Thanks for stopping by for a little life story.  Stay tuned…

Joan Koerber-Walker

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