I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I didn’t need to. I could see that one of the high school cross country runners was crying. Two teammates stood nearby, listening and consoling. Soon, the rest of the team joined in, until this one so-sad runner was surrounded by teammates, all turned inward, all supportive, all caring, all understanding.
The sad runner wiped away tears, and the entire team took off running past me together in the parking lot at the sectional races in northern New Jersey last week.
Oh, and they were all boys.
Surprised? I was. After all, boys don’t cry.
Boys suck it up.
Boys hold it in.
Boys punch walls.
Boys punch other people.
Boys drink and spit and drive aggressively.
Boys commit crimes. (Men make up 93% of all prisoners in the U.S.)
Boys start wars.
Boys don’t cry, because if boys did that, they would release their emotions. And if people supported them while they cried, they would feel validated and cared for and would work through whatever made them feel so bad.
Then they wouldn’t have to suck it up or hold it in. And who knows what would happen then, and who knows what wouldn’t happen?
But I do know what happened that day in the parking lot at the cross country meet: Boys supported another boy who was sad. And nobody got hurt.