The kids I write about, unwittingly, came to my rescue over the weekend

I begin here: What I'm about to share is deeply personal. It comes with some risk. But I believe we can all learn something here.

Last week was one of the worst of my life. And a group of high school athletes unwittingly helped me through it, teaching me the best lesson of all: the gratitude that comes as the byproduct of heartbreak.

I'll keep names and details to myself. Too hurtful, too personal and too gossipy to share. Let's just say that I learned something disappointing about someone very close to my heart.

I still don't want to believe it.

It left me physically ill and unable to sleep.

It left me heartbroken.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to despair.

The kids came to the rescue.

Kenny Hill, a kid at Waterford High, shared the story of his childhood. Parents with opioid addictions and the residual effects that left every tentacle of his life unstable. Kenny, among the most popular kids at Waterford, spoke without one ounce of anger.

Then he said this: "I'm proud to say I've gone through those things and overcome them."

Hill hit me between the eyes. He also opened them. In that one line, I realized that my week of torment had been a blessing. A true blessing. It's not everybody who is fortunate enough to encounter their worst fear — and the images of it mercilessly rolling around in your mind — to the point of distraction.

Yes, I said fortunate. Because if the universe thinks I'm strong enough to cope then I will not merely endure, but prevail. Think about it: A higher power is actually paying us a compliment when the hailstones hit.

Imagine, too, my realization that a high school kid taught me about the grace tethered to facing heartbreak.

Two days later, I watched the girls' basketball players of New London High weep uncontrollably after losing the state championship game. I understood the blessing of disappointment again. Imagine how many people robotically go through life, never coming so close to caring about something that much. How deeply they care is living the authentic life.

And I realized that I care about something — someone, actually — so much that physical illness, insomnia and heartbreak were all blessings.

I reiterate: a bunch of high school kids taught me about the grace tethered to facing heartbreak.

Know what else? They taught me that being vulnerable is OK. That all the macho guy stuff is debilitating. It's OK to cry. And hurt. And share.

I realized that some people come into our lives to teach us about love.

Some people come into our lives to teach us about pain.

But the truly special relationships are the people who teach us — and with whom you can experience — both. I'm a lucky guy.

Turns out Carly Simon had it wrong when she said she didn't have time for the pain.

I think I do.

And it's OK.

"Finding the good and the lessons in things allows us to move through them and on to new experiences," author Jen Sincero wrote once. "If you want to stay stuck in the same place and keep getting spanked with the same lessons over and over, be negative, resentful and victimized. If you want to get over your issues, be grateful, look for the good and learn."

That's what I tried to practice after talking to Kenny and the girls. Some of you reading this saw me out and about this week at several playoff basketball games. I enjoyed interacting with many of you. I did as well as I could to hide what was churning inside.

It helped immensely that the day I learned one of my worst fears came true, I got in my car and immediately heard "The Long Run" by the Eagles. A song about patience, faith and time. I think the universe was telling me that it's all going to be OK ... in the long run. The next song: "Bless The Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts.

Our broken roads are truly blessed. It's just that sometimes, we need a little help seeing them. So thanks to Kenny and the girls. I'll never forget you.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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