Westminster, Colorado

Westminster, Colorado. Before school ended a few weeks ago, 12-year-old Brody Ridder did what every kid does at the end of the school year. He took his yearbook to classmates and asked them:

“Will you sign my yearbook?”

It’s a humbling question for a sixth-grader to ask. In fact, it’s a humbling question at any age. Because what if the person turns you down? What if they reject you? Frankly I’d rather try to sell someone Amway.

Getting signatures in your yearbook has always been a big deal. When I was in sixth grade, the year before my father died, I remember when a history teacher wrote into my yearbook:

“You have no idea how high you will fly, young man. You will fly not because flying is easy, but because you’re Sean Freaking Dietrich!”

Her comment really stuck with me.

So while everyone in school was cheerfully signing yearbooks, Brody joined in and asked people to sign his book. To his horror, almost all students refused to sign it.

At first it seemed like everyone was playing a collective joke. But no, it was no joke. Students simply didn’t care about Brody’s yearbook. Most just ignored him. The few that did sign his book just halfheartedly scribbled their names, nothing more.

He got two, maybe three autographs.

Brody went home with empty pages and a hollow heart. To make himself feel better, the 12-year-old wrote himself a note in his own yearbook, then signed it himself. It read:

“Hope you make some more friends.—Brody Ridder.”

His mother saw the note and it broke her. Cassandra Ridder could hardly believe kids would refuse to write in a 12-year-old’s yearbook. Moreover, why? Brody has been bullied in the past, but this was a new low. What is this world coming to?

Have we gotten so mean spirited as a culture that our children are numb to the basal needs of others? What does this say about us adults? Isn’t this our fault? Aren’t we responsible? Furthermore, what specifically does “basal” mean?

Brody’s mom snapped a photo of her son’s handwritten note and posted it to a Facebook group. She was asking other parents to speak out against bullying.

But something else happened. People saw her post and showed it to their high-schoolers.

Many high-schoolers were outraged.

Seventeen-year-old Joanna Cooper received a text message from her mother with a screenshot of the post about Brody. Joanna had never met Brody, but she knew immediately that she wanted to help. Because, in Joanna Cooper’s words, “no kid deserves to feel like that.”

Meantime, other high-schoolers had been seeing the post online and thinking the same thing, they wanted to help. Students such as Simone Lightfoot, a junior who found out about Brody from her fellow student. And Logan South, a junior whose family had spent a few hours discussing the issue.

Ideas were hatched. Plans were formed. A day later, there was a knock on Brody’s classroom door. Whereupon a throng of high-schoolers entered his middle-school classroom unannounced.

“We walked in,” said Joanna, “and we were like ‘Where’s Brody at…? We’re here to sign your yearbook, bud.’”

So just imagine. You’re Brody Ridder. There you are, minding your own business when a group of high-schoolers—all of whom you have never met—arrives in YOUR classroom to visit you.

There are senior girls in crop tops, junior guys in athletic jerseys, upperclassmen with multiple piercings, and young people with angular trendy haircuts that look like they’ve mistakenly fallen headfirst into a Weed Eater. And these people are all here for you.

You.

The high-schoolers signed his yearbook. And the signatures never quit coming. Before long, Brody had over a hundred autographs from older kids he’d never met. Most entries were long paragraphs with uplifting words. Some notes contained phone numbers.

Joanna Cooper’s yearbook entry said:

“I know we don’t know you, but I know you are the coolest kid! If you ever need anything, call your senior friends!”

And while I’m overawed at the act of kindness from the young men and young women of Westminster, I’m only sorry I wasn’t part of it. Which, I suppose, is why I’m writing this.

Because If I would have had a chance, I know what I would have written in Brody’s yearbook. I would have said:

No matter what your naysayers and oppressors say or do to you, Brody, these small-minded people have no idea how high you will soar one day, my friend. You will fly not because flying is easy, but because you are Brody Freaking Ridder.

And don’t you ever forget it.

51 comments

  1. Debbie - June 14, 2022 7:05 am

    I love this Sean. Thank you.
    Debbie Freaking McCann 🤗

    Reply
  2. Peter Grant - June 14, 2022 7:47 am

    Awesome story and so true. Stay strong and positive.

    Reply
  3. Steve McCaleb - June 14, 2022 8:59 am

    Maybe….just maybe, there’s hope for us yet. Things like this give me hope.

    Reply
    • Holly Rabalais - June 14, 2022 11:54 am

      Me, too, Steve. Me, too. What a great story to start the day.

      Reply
  4. Kelly - June 14, 2022 9:53 am

    Thank you for this! Gives me hope for our future…the kids are going to save us all!

    Reply
  5. Debbie - June 14, 2022 10:08 am

    Love this story. So wonderful to read about good people that do kind things for another Soul.

    Reply
  6. chgemson - June 14, 2022 10:09 am

    Thank you for your sensitive post! I remember my high school days too!

    Reply
  7. Barbara - June 14, 2022 10:11 am

    What would it have cost those self-serving, bully middle school classmates to write a few words of encouragement? I hope they all learned a good lesson that day the older students stood up, showed up and lifted up Brody. Very encouraging! A few kind words can make the difference in someone’s day or life. Soar high, Brody! Thanks to his Mom for making it known that this was not ok and to you for signing the year book, Sean!

    Reply
  8. Ann Thompson - June 14, 2022 10:23 am

    I’d like to know the reaction of his classmates. Did they see the cruelty they had been part of? And change? A change has to come.

    Reply
  9. Brenda from Georgia - June 14, 2022 10:39 am

    I am so sorry; yet happy for Cody! Thanks for tackling the subject of bullying so awesomely! I learned after my daughter had graduated high school that she was bullied in school. This shocked me beyond words – no one deserves to be treated with such disrespect!

    Reply
  10. Debbie Taylor - June 14, 2022 11:00 am

    There are so many good people in this world … and I’m glad they found Brody. His life has been changed by their kindheartedness ❤️

    Reply
  11. Melissa Norman - June 14, 2022 11:06 am

    Whoot! Whoot! Let’s hear it for the big kids!!! I am so proud of the parents for noticing and then getting their kids involved. What a difference they all made when they joined together to right a wrong. I hope those younger kids in that classroom have had a change of heart, too. What a great way for me to start my day with this wonderful story on the goodness of people. Thanks for writing it.

    Reply
  12. Tony - June 14, 2022 11:38 am

    God Bless Brody’s Mother! And Thanks Sean for the uplifting story!

    Reply
  13. Paul McCutchen - June 14, 2022 11:40 am

    Great story Sean. Maybe some lessons will be learned.

    Reply
  14. crowsfeetchronicles - June 14, 2022 11:42 am

    I just sent this note to a friend: Damn you! Thanks to you and Jessica and the referral to Sean Dietrich’s blog, I start most days with a tear. I’m also so in awe of his writing that I find it difficult to blog myself. It’s like visiting an art museum and then going home and coloring with crayons.

    Seriously—I am always touched by his writing and pleased that he manages to showcase the best in this world. Thanks.

    Reply
  15. David Florez - June 14, 2022 12:05 pm

    Its the parenting. I always told my son to play with the kids no one else would play with. Protect them from the bully. My son was very athletic. As a result he had many friends. His team mates, the geeky kids and the chubby no so athletic kids. To this day he and his buddies still like to hang with his old man. Its in the parenting.

    Reply
  16. Linda Lewis - June 14, 2022 12:18 pm

    Wow! This is so powerful! Those high schoolers have such big hearts. They are wise beyond their years. This story helps to renew my faith in Mankind. Thank you for writing this wonderful piece.

    Reply
  17. Kay B - June 14, 2022 12:21 pm

    I’ll sign his yearbook! This is great. Soooo great!

    Reply
  18. Jan - June 14, 2022 12:32 pm

    Makes you believe in the goodness of people, especially high schoolers, all over again! Thank you, Sean, and thank you to the high school crowd who did something awesome!

    Reply
  19. Lynda Lindsey - June 14, 2022 12:47 pm

    I was that kid many years ago… and I (by God’s grace and the love of real friends) have soared! Thanks for encouraging the Brody’s out there…

    Reply
  20. Judy HIcks - June 14, 2022 12:51 pm

    As usual well said and very much needed. Kindness people, show some kindness today. Everyone needs it!

    Reply
  21. Anne Arthur - June 14, 2022 12:53 pm

    My heart breaks for any kid that’s bullied and pushed aside. This story is so uplifting. Goodness still exists. Cheers to Brody and all kids who are honored by those who acknowledge them by acts of love.

    Reply
  22. Pingback: Sean of the South: Westminster, Colorado | The Trussville Tribune

  23. Bobby Hamil - June 14, 2022 12:56 pm

    Uplifting story. I just hope that after the high schoolers came and went, it changed the relationship between Brody and his classmates in a positive way.

    Reply
  24. Judy klamo - June 14, 2022 1:13 pm

    Your column touches my heart every single day!

    Reply
  25. Barbara Culwell - June 14, 2022 1:24 pm

    This is so good. Thank you so much. Every person is valuable. It makes me sad and angry at how cruel others can be to one another. What an encouraging reminder of the power we have have to see and affirm one another. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  26. Karen - June 14, 2022 1:50 pm

    There are so many great kids in this world. I hope the parents of the kids who didn’t sign the yearbook had a long talk with them. As a teacher, I know it takes only one class bully to influence other students to join them in their hatefulness.

    Reply
  27. Harold Lenz - June 14, 2022 1:52 pm

    I continue to enjoy each and every entry from you. Always with an excellent message.You are Sean “Freakin” Dietrich. 😎

    Reply
  28. Patricia Gibson - June 14, 2022 2:02 pm

    A wonderful story!! Thank goodness there is still kindness in the world

    Reply
  29. Peggy M. Windham - June 14, 2022 2:12 pm

    God bless those high school students who stepped up!💜

    Reply
  30. David Britnell - June 14, 2022 2:13 pm

    Dang it Sean, made me cry again!! Beautiful!

    Reply
  31. pdjpop - June 14, 2022 2:45 pm

    I was a teacher/coach/administrator. These displays of kindness would do wonders if repeated over and over. Could even be the answer to the serious issues in our youth today.
    Awareness and constant vigilance by students, teachers, coaches and administrators are needed more than ever. A sense of community responsibly applied can save lives.
    God bless you Sean Freaking Dietrich.
    PJ

    Reply
  32. Susan H Poole - June 14, 2022 3:57 pm

    I💖U, Sean Freaking Dietrich. You have flown even higher than you probably ever imagined.😍

    Reply
  33. LIN ARNOLD - June 14, 2022 4:06 pm

    God works in miraculous ways. Amen.

    Reply
  34. Mim - June 14, 2022 4:21 pm

    Yes! My kids need this reminder toward end of school too. They will fly!

    Reply
  35. Laura - June 14, 2022 4:34 pm

    This was another one of my favorites by you Sean! Loved it and so proud of the difference you make when you write!

    Reply
  36. Carol Pilmer - June 14, 2022 4:35 pm

    Another inspirational story….thanks

    Reply
  37. Judy - June 14, 2022 4:35 pm

    How sad and yet how encouraging. He will fly!!!

    Reply
  38. Martha Young - June 14, 2022 4:42 pm

    You fly Brody ! You definitely are a step above others your age.Really hope a lesson was learned by your class mates.You don’t need a lesson, you already know how to do the right thing ! Have a fun summer!!!!

    Reply
  39. John Freaking Fraughton - June 14, 2022 5:51 pm

    Somehow today, I find myself flying a little bit higher.

    Reply
  40. Eshanne - June 14, 2022 5:55 pm

    Thanks for this. I was this kid in elementary school. This was my fourth grade year. Crazy thing about it is that I ended up dropping out of school in fourth grade. Fourth grade dropout. There was one kid that was nice to me a few times that year. I just looked him up {what a marvel the internet is} and sent him a note thanking his ten year old self for those few golden moment of kindness. My story has a happy ending too… just not school related. Those little things are just every single little thing under the sun. The older I get the more I am convinced that these moments of connection and kindness are the fuel that makes the earth turn and the stars burn.

    Reply
  41. Chasity Davis Ritter. Sarah’s mom. - June 14, 2022 7:08 pm

    I hope his momma sees this. I’m sitting here crying as always. My baby girl isn’t Brody Ridder but she is Sarah Ritter.(I’ve mentioned before that age is special needs) She has only one signature in her senior year book but to her it’s the only one that ever mattered when she was in school. The sweet young man that she had a crush on all through high school. The young man that autographed a football for her freshman year when he was elected junior high home coming king. The young man who senior year signed a baseball and a baseball glove for her too who also posed for countless pictures with her and has continued to do so when we run into him from time to time since they graduated. As a momma I wish she’d had a few other autographs but for it her it was the best one ever and all she ever needed. It only takes a second to be kind but that second can last a life time to the person you give it to.

    Reply
  42. Gloria Van Nostrand - June 14, 2022 9:16 pm

    Taught middle schoolers for 26 years. My fellow teachers and I would never have allowed this to happen. Those kiddos need protection…so thankful those high schoolers did what they did!

    Reply
  43. Linda Moon - June 14, 2022 9:53 pm

    Your history teacher was very prescient about Sean Dietrich, but I -former teacher- am feeling sad for Brody as I’m reading now. And so I’m continuing to read and my heart got happy! If I had the chance, I’d have written your exact words to Brody. And then I’d add “You Soar, Sean Dietrich”.

    Reply
  44. Buddy Caudill - June 14, 2022 10:22 pm

    Uplifting !
    Thank you for sharing !

    Reply
  45. Glen Smalley - June 15, 2022 12:45 am

    In an era of toxic, crass and demeaning rhetoric, your columns remind us of to Love God and to Love others! Some high schoolers just earned more rewards in heaven!

    Reply
  46. Helen De Prima - June 15, 2022 2:12 am

    Maybe hope for the upcoming generation after all.

    Reply
  47. Patricia Queen - June 15, 2022 6:38 pm

    Thank you for your articles! I enjoy and are moved by them…keep them coming 😍

    Reply
  48. Fred Frederick - June 16, 2022 7:46 pm

    Awesome, Sean.
    Just awesome
    Thanks for a great story!

    Reply
  49. Amanda McKinley - June 17, 2022 3:30 am

    This hurts my momma heart. So many questions. Was he a difficult kid to love? I hear my own kids talking about the ‘hard to love’ kids in their class and it’s hard, as a momma, to encourage them to keep loving, even when it’s not cool, even when the kid says inappropriate things or even hurtful things. I have no idea what that kid is like, but I know there is always another side to the story. I’m not defending the actions by any means – I’m actually confessing as a parent – I watch them talk about peers and classmates who are really hard to love. And there is usually a reason. A legit reason. And sometimes, it takes a lot of confidence and humility to break those social barriers to reach out to that kid and sign his yearbook. I pray that not only would we feel a heart for that kid, but we would also look at ourselves and wonder: am I encouraging my kid to love the unloveable, even when it’s not cool, even when it hurts me, my reputation, etc. That’s a hard thing to ask of our kids, heck, it’s hard to even ask that of myself. But that’s what true love and humility looks like.

    Reply
  50. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 18, 2022 6:00 am

    ❤️

    Reply

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