Today's Horrible Kids

for the week of May 13, 2002
by Rubel Shelly

Most of the stories that get told about young people these days are tongue-cluckers. You know what a tongue-clucker is, don't you? Somebody tells the story of a kid on drugs, pregnant in the ninth grade, or in jail. Then all of us who have heard the story look down, wag our heads, and cluck our tongues. It's something of a sign of bewilderment mixed with contempt and indignation.

I'm convinced, however, that there are far more stories to tell about the integrity, virtue, and generosity of young people. And more of those stories need to be shared. Take the one about Arleigh Brackin as a case in point.

Arleigh is an honor student at Lawrence County (Tennessee) High School. She will graduate later this month with a 4.0 grade-point average. On May 6, she received that school's highest honor to a graduating senior. She was awarded the Cromer Smotherman Most Outstanding Student Award an honor in memory of a former principal at LCHS that carries an unrestricted scholarship of $2,500. Everyone at the awards assembly knew there was no more deserving student.

As Arleigh stepped forward to receive her prize, she stunned the audience and moved most of them to tears. She spoke to the crowd and said she had already been blessed to receive a basketball scholarship at Tennessee Tech. So if nobody minded, she continued, she would like for the money just presented to her to be divided between the two other finalists for the Smotherman Award.

Before some cynic wonders if the rules prevent the Most Outstanding Student Award going to someone who has already received a scholarship or if Arleigh just didn't need the money, don't even think it. Her basketball scholarship covers tuition, room, and board. She could have used the $2,500 for a variety of things ranging from books to incidental expenses of college life.

So maybe her family is rich and $2,500 just didn't mean that much to them? Hardly. Her dad pastors a Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg. So that probably answers any question about Arleigh's family having surplus funds lying around!

"I know that as she was talking I kept thinking, I can't believe this!' " said one of the students who will benefit from Arleigh's generosity. "But in a way I'm not surprised because it sounds like something she would do."

The next time somebody starts on how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, think about Arleigh Brackin. Don't cluck your tongue. Tell her story.

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