Dominoes Episode One

Charley had not been looking forward to this day. He was being honored by his high school for his lifetime of boldness. Charley never sought recognition and generally refused interviews. He wanted his achievements to be about the people he helped rather than himself. However, the high school recognition came at a time when his hometown needed a renewal, and Charley felt he could be the person who might push the first domino to begin the renewal.

Charley was in high school when the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Brown vs Board of Education case. His high school was integrated, but it was in name only. African American students had separate classrooms in a rundown annex to the high school. African American students were not allowed to play sports, join clubs, or participate in student government.

Charley felt this was wrong and decided to do something about it. While Charley was a talented basketball player, he never tried out for his high school team. Academics were more important to him. Besides, the basketball team was largely an exclusive club of boys from elite families.

In the fall, it was customary for the basketball team to have pick-up games against students who wanted to challenge them. Charley saw this as an opportunity to challenge the de facto segregation in the school.

He reached out to an African American friend to put together a team to challenge the school’s varsity team. After some reluctance to play against Charley’s guys, the varsity team agreed to the game. The result was embarrassing. Charley’s team routed the varsity team. That was the moment that led to a chain reaction of acceptance of African Americans into the high school.

As the community’s mayor, an African American, told the story of Charley’s bold actions, there were smiles on the faces in the crowd. The legacy of “Charley’s Team” was still fondly remarkable.

Once the mayor finished telling his story, he said: “We struggled with what we might give Charley to recognize his contribution to our high school and this community. And then we looked back at the newspaper when ‘Charley’s Team’ won the state championship. They were divisively called the dominoes because of the black color of the dominoes with white dots. Then we heard that Charley was fascinated by domino chair reaction videos. We decided that we should give Charley a unique set of dominoes. This box contains dominoes made by each student in school. We asked them to make their dominoes represent them. What we have is a rainbow of colors. Some dots are in Braille. Charley, please accept this gift in recognition of how you pushed the first domino of acceptance in our school and our community.”

Charley was speechless and touched. This gift was to become his future.

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“A complete stranger has the capacity to alter the life of another irrevocably. This domino effect has the capacity to challenge the course of an entire world. That is what life is: a chain reaction of individuals colliding with others and influencing their lives without realizing it. A decision that seems miniscule to you, may be monumental to the fate of the world.” – J.D. Stroube

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