Sudduth Elementary teacher Stacy Weems never misses an opportunity to teach her students about compassion.
She was able to use a real-life instance to bring her point home to her students when Mississippi State football player Leon Barry had a tough game against Auburn University where he dropped a crucial pass.
“I wanted them to realize no one felt it more than Leon, I could assure them,” Weems explained. “This lead into a discussion about how everyone has a bad day or feels they let someone down in some way, and we discussed how they felt at those times.”
When Weems told her students that even a guy as tough as Barry was crying after the Auburn game, she said she could hear a pin drop in her room “because we have all been there,” she said.
“My focus was to get these children to feel what he was going through and think of ways they could make him feel better,” Weems added.
She was overwhelmed when her students started coming up with ideas to make a nice card for Barry, bake him some cookie, adopt him as their favorite MSU player, and perhaps most touching was when one student said, “Let’s tell him we believe in him.”
“It was an awesome discussion about feelings and compassion,” Weems beamed.
After receiving the kind words from the Sudduth
students, Barry’s girlfriend, Delisa Cole, called Weems to tell her that the students’ cards had produced the first smile she had seen on her boyfriend’s face since the football game.
“I think we lifted his spirits in a big way,” Weems said. “Everyone needs understanding during tough times like these.”
Following the Auburn game, Barry’s performance on the football field looked as though he was never affected, including a 95-yard punt return during the Alcorn State game at home Oct. 2.
Then tragedy struck the very next week when MSU traveled to Houston. During a play involving Barry, he dislocated his ankle and tore several tendons.
“So we just keep sending cards and words of encouragement,” Weems said.
To show the students his appreciation for their support, Barry visited Weems’ class. The children asked questions, and Barry expressed his gratitude for their encouragement.
“I was depressed for about two weeks after it happened,” Barry said of his accident. “It had never happened to me before, but when I read those cards from the kids, I kind of broke down again. It lifted me up. I was really touched.”
Barry told the children that when things don’t go the way they planned that they have to keep their heads up and stay strong. He also gave them his personal words to live by.
“A minor set back makes for a major come back,” he said. “I’ve just been working to get my mind stronger because I was weak mentally after (the football accident) happened.”
Barry also brought with him gifts for the children, including a signed photo of himself, and he also gave a framed photo and autograph for Weems.
“This experience will carry over for a long time in both parties lives, I hope,” Weems said.
“I have thought about what would sum up Leon’s visit to me, and that would be what I said to him in the first note that I wrote to him after the Auburn game: ‘Adversity comes in many size packages, but it is how we handle that adversity that shows our true character.’”