Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We always know that there's tomorrow
— "Lean On Me," by Bill Withers
KEARNS — Talaitupu Faumui saw the Olympus volleyball team huddled and crying, and couldn't help herself.
The Kearns senior was walking back into the gym with her Cougar teammates after eating lunch during a volleyball tournament last month.
"I came into the gym and a girl was down," said the Kearns senior of seeing junior Christia Isaia lying on the floor with a broken leg. "She looked like she was hyperventilating."
And then she noticed the need in Isaia's teammates on the sideline.
"I called everyone together for a prayer," said Faumui. Her teammates encircled the emotional Titans and together, they began praying. After the prayer, Faumui said they began to sing, "Lean on me."
It's something the Cougars do on their way home from every road game.
"Every time we turn onto Cougar Drive, we sing 'Lean on me'," Faumui said. "It's a team tradition."
Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
As the Kearns and Olympus volleyball teams sang the words to the familiar song, the Salem Hills volleyball team was moved enough to join the circle and the song.
The mood was shifting in that gymnasium. The peace was growing. As medical personnel attended to Isaia, Faumui and her teammates comforted the Titans by singing hymns. Eventually, Isaia was taken to a hospital and all of those girls in that circle got back to playing volleyball.
But the cheering was different from that moment on. Kearns cheered for Olympus for the remainder of the day — and the Titans returned the favor.
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show
"We didn't think of it as anything special," said senior Micalee Orton, who committed to play basketball at BYU next year. Adds her co-captain Faumui, "We didn't think it was a big deal until people started saying, 'Hey we heard what you did.' Anyone would do that."
And then came a cake and a letter thanking the girls. The letter pointed out that the girls illustrated something about love, compassion and sportsmanship that they might not have intended to show when they reached out to those in need of comfort that day.
"I don't want to get overly religious or anything, but there is a scripture in the bible that says, 'And now abideth in faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.' (I Corinthians 13:13)," the unsigned letter read. "Thank you for reminding me, a 46-year-old mother, what true charity is in the form of compassion."
If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me
The letter pointed out that earlier in the tournament, another mom had suggested that the younger players on Olympus' team learn the spirited songs, chants and cheers that are quickly becoming the trademark of Kearns High volleyball.
(In this unbiased reporter's opinion, they have the single best cheering section in any sport, at any school.)
But one of the girls bristled at the idea of incorporating "west side cheers" into their efforts to support the players.
After the accident, in which Isaia said she broke both her tibia and fibula, that no longer seemed to be an issue.
"You were not on that court, in your circle, as west-siders or east-siders or south-siders, but simply as young ladies who cared about one of their injured own. Thank you, too, for all that you have taught my daughter about love, compassion, school pride and acceptance of others simply for who they are — no matter where they come from. More than what she will ever learn on the volleyball court, I am thankful for these lessons."
The Cougar volleyball team had no idea they were teaching anyone anything that day. They're still a little shocked at the response their decision to reach out has elicited from around the valley.
"Singing, clapping turned a bad situation into a good one," said Faumui, who shot a smile at Orton. "We showed it's not where you're from but how you come together to support each other."
So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to make it
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to make it
Isaia said she found the songs comforting as she tried to choke back the tears that came with knowing her season had ended.
"It was so sweet," the junior middle blocker said. "I was crying. My teammates were crying, and it was way sweet for the Kearns team to do that. It was emotional for us."
The Cougars aren't wasting any time patting themselves on the back. They're already planning other ways to help those in need. On Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at Hunter High, they'll join with the Wolverines in a Pink Game that will benefit former Hunter volleyball player Jazmyn Davidson, who was badly injured in a car accident that killed her older sister in five weeks ago.
On Oct. 11 at 6 p.m., they will hold a fundraising game, complete with raffle and silent auction, that will benefit their scorekeeper who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy.
While the girls don't consider their efforts extraordinary, their coach is grateful that the world is now seeing what he's has always known about the girls who wear the green and gold uniforms.
"These girls are fantastic," said Ryan Knowlton. "This is what I see everyday. What happened at Olympus showed it, but they have that same character every day."
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