Among the Giants

January 14, 2009
By Austin Groff, Landisville, PA

“You are fourteen?!” one of my bewildered classmates asked. That was me, the short, scrawny kid. I could relate to how the ugly duckling must have felt. He did not seem to fit in with everyone else; something was different. It was almost like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that could not be given a proper slot. The piece could be tried at many different places, but not one seemed to complete the puzzle. I was that single piece. I didn’t fit in with my classmates who were like giants compared to me. I apprehensively wondered if my growth spurt would ever come.

I attended Kraybill Mennonite, a small, secluded middle school wedged in between the town of Mount Joy. The school had been a part of my life since kindergarten and it had felt like a journey through a dark tunnel without light at the end. I will be in eighth grade and maybe, just maybe a ray of welcoming sunshine would pierce through that dark tunnel of ups and downs.
During the hot muggy months of August and September, I could be found in the blistering heat pounding a soccer ball against an old shed in my backyard. Soccer was something that I could get lost in and leave my troubles behind.
Soccer camp began two weeks before school and I was full of anticipation. I fantasized about cutting and dodging past shocked defenders as the goalie was blown away with a perfectly placed shot. In a couple of weeks when our season started, hordes of screaming fans would be chanting my name.
“Austin, Austin, Austin!” A single voice brought me back to reality.
“Hey, are you going to pass me the ball sometime today?” grumbled a teammate.
“Oh, umm…errr…sorry.” I sheepishly responded.

As I trudged through the hallways on the first day of school, I already felt self-conscious. It felt like stumbling through New York City with its crowded streets and gigantic buildings, overwhelming me with its sheer size; I felt like that insignificant pebble kicked to the curb.

I shyly responded with a quick hello to one of my friends and found my class. School dragged by as I anxiously waited for our first game. With relief, the last bell rang, the day was over. The locker room was soon packed with loud, boisterous soccer players anticipating a win. I could not wait to get on that field and take my position I had worked so hard for.
Coach began reading the starting line-up and I just waited for my name to be announced. To my utter surprise it never came.
Stunned, I plopped down on the cold, uninviting bench as I was reduced to a spectator. This is my eighth grade year; I am supposed to be a starter. How am I sitting here while seventh graders are playing more than I am? Many more similar incident followed as the time spent on the bench out-weighed the time I was celebrating goals on the field with my teammates. It just was not fair. Why did I have to be the smallest and the shortest?

Soccer, instead of being fun, became a chore, another giant in my life. I only attended the games and practices because I had no other choice. With a little over a few weeks left in the season, I was ready to hang up my cleats. The cleats were like a discarded Christmas tree after the season was over they simply had no purpose.
The season finally ended in late October, as our team went undefeated. I wanted no part in it. I had not been given a chance to prove myself, and sitting on the bench left a bitter taste in mouth. Like changing fall leaves with vibrant colors that blew onto the soccer field, I too had changed from a person who had soccer to one who could not even look at a ball without disdain.

Soon the harsh temperatures of winter made, froze my memories of soccer and how my smallness had contributed to the miniscule amount of playing time I received.
I attempted to leave soccer behind and focus on more important things in life. For so long I had dwelled on the fact that I was different from the kids my age. Continually, I pondered about things I was not able to do or accomplish because I was that puzzle piece that just didn’t fit. But was that really the problem? Was it truly because I was the short, scrawny kid? I tossed and turned with the idea, unsure of the answer could be. Perhaps a change of the seasons would help me gather my thoughts.

The endless nights are one of the benefits of winter. It gives a person valuable time to think about things from a different perspective. For as long as I could remember, my size and height defined me. When someone mentioned my name, the thought of a small boy almost always crossed their mind. Did I want to be known for that?
After many hours of pondering, I finally came to a conclusion. Being shorter was not the l issue, instead I had made it into one. By believing that I was under-privileged and at a disadvantage, I actually had convinced myself I really was. I wanted to be known for my personality; something I could control. My thought process and perspective on life had to change from that point on.

At first I struggled with being comfortable with who I was. I kept trying to believe in myself and eventually things really did change. God had not been much of a priority in my life then. I learned that not until I was ready to submit to God and surrender my life to him, could I be satisfied with my life. When an announcement was read about the possibility of baptism and a mission trip to Honduras, I knew God was calling me. Through these experiences, God changed my life. He taught me to focus on things that really mattered instead of things that are beyond my control. I was transformed from a person who was self-conscious of myself to someone who could stand up with confidence and pride. Instead of putting goals into the net, God had given me the ultimate goal, living a life devoted to him. God had opened my eyes like the men who witnessed David’s defeat of Goliath, so that I could now defeat the biggest giant in my life, me.

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