Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” -St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta
Being a ninth grader is fraught with awkwardness. Honestly, I don’t know that anyone avoids the discomfort altogether? When my oldest son was in his first year of high school, he spent a great deal of the first six months feeling fairly miserable about the ordeal. At the time a friend attempted to comfort me with the words, “well, there’s really nothing lower, socially speaking, than being a high school freshman boy.” It made me laugh, because…well…truer words were never spoken? I guess the silver lining is that this phase tends to pass rather quickly, especially if one is surrounded by positive people like the young man pictured above. His name is John Tiplick, and he is a freshman at Guerin Catholic High School.
I have only recently discovered this bright, talented and very smiley kid. I’d like to share my observations with you, because I think it’s important for our young people to understand that how they interact in the world really does matter– to their peers and to us “grown-ups” too.
John is the oldest of the three Tiplick children and the son of Rosemary and Gary. Because he is on the tennis team with Zach, I have had the chance to get to know him just a little. Like a lot of freshmen boys, John is physically small, but discounting him would be a big mistake because that will inevitably change over his four years of high school…and he’s a beautiful tennis player with good looking strokes. He played in his first two varsity matches this week and did a great job representing the Golden Eagles. Tennis is NOT the reason I have chosen to feature John today, however.
Every single time I have seen John, he is smiling. His light shines on the area he inhabits and on the people who find themselves nearby. This kid is a bright light! On Sunday at mass, I noticed he was sitting at the piano at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, accompanying the choir for the 5:30pm mass. He’s a talented musician, I quickly learned, who volunteers his time for the benefit of his parish. What a beautiful example to the rest of us!
Last night, I had the opportunity to spend some time with John Tiplick for the first time while I drove a few of the GC boys to and from their match at Hamilton Southeastern. I was impressed. I would describe him as an upbeat, polite and very kind kid both before and after his match. Also? I’d like John to work with all three of my Thieme boys on their directional skills. His giftedness in this area is almost savant-like. He’s a human GPS. As he was directing me to his home, he carefully pointed out the best way to exit his subdivision to get me quickly back to 146th St. (and home) a tad quicker than the circuitous route we took coming in. You see, we had dropped off his neighbor and teammate Jak Kolb on the way in. It was impressive and thoughtful. I could hear the smile in his voice the entire time.
So, this evening I wanted to give a shout out to a pretty fabulous 15 year old! John, you are clearly a faith-filled young man who is the face of Jesus to those around you with your sunny temperament and ever present smile! Thanks for reminding me that every single one of us can make a difference for others by the small, holy acts of kindness we bestow on the world. Keep doing you, kiddo! You are a grace-filled scoop of awesome sauce!
P.S. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, John, about the possibility of being a “victim” of my little series! Ha!!