November 2010 Christopher Long
It was the first FCA meeting of my freshman year. A couple of weeks had gone by since the beginning of school, and I had yet to find a group—not a good way to start off high school. I felt left out. I felt like an outcast. For years, people targeted me as the brunt of all the jokes, whether because of my size or my lack of athleticism. But that night... That night changed me for the better.
My mom had told me to get a ride home from the meeting with someone by the name of Ben Hughes. I had no idea who she was talking about, and I searched aimlessly for 15 minutes. What I found was a giant—a guy who was as large compared to his fellow football players as they were compared to me. He turned out to be the star center of the varsity football team, president of FCA, and a leader in PALs (Peer-Assisted Leadership). He had more friends than anyone I had ever known, and I feared he would be like every other “popular” guy I knew—a total jerk. I was an ant at the foot of a mountain.
But that night I heard him pray. I watched him speak in front of a massive group of people about the Bible. I saw how much he really cared for everyone around him. I realized he wasn’t so well-liked because he was “the popular guy” or because he was a football player. People liked him because he cared about them. He gave me a ride that night. Come to think of it, he gave me a lot of rides that year.
On the way back from the next meeting, he asked me out of the blue, “Do you wanna come with me to the leadership meeting tomorrow?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Chris Long (left) is a member of the FCA Huddle at Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas. He wrote this as an essay for his English class and, through it, pays tribute to the positive influence of his friend Ben Hughes (right), now a freshman football player at Southern Methodist University.
Shock shot up my spine. “Why? I’m not a leader. I thought y’all said only the leaders could go.”
“Dude, you’d make a great leader. You’re smart, and you know the Word like no one I have ever known.”
I turned his words over and over in my mind trying to make sense of something so simple, yet so confusing. How could I, an unpopular little freshman, have earned the respect of someone so great? I ran that question back and forth in my mind searching every answer I could come up with—the logical and illogical alike—until I finally broke down and prayed about it. Needless to say, I went with him the next morning.
I don’t know if he told his friends about me or if they just saw me around him, but more and more people began to accept me. I became a friend to both geeks and jocks alike. Ben had opened the door to a whole new frontier of friends.
I went with him to every meeting after that. I didn’t miss a single one. I helped out in every way I could, only limited by the established rules of FCA as to what a leader could and could not do. My entire high school life started with Ben. Thankfully it didn’t end with him.
Ben’s now off at Southern Methodist University playing football on a full scholarship. I actually get to lead now. And all those friends I had made through Ben? They are the greatest group of friends I have ever had. I can trust them with anything. The respect I have now couldn’t be more different from the mockery of elementary and middle school. It all started with my best friend, Ben Hughes: a big man with a big heart.