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OPINION | Let’s focus on being nice to each other

by Alissa Thibault

Editor's note: This story is exactly why I wanted young bloggers on Sydney Chic..beautiful writing Alissa, thank you. Time for feel-good stories in an unsettled world.

The death of Charlotte Dawson is an absolute tragedy, whichever way you look at it. And to think that bullying may have played some part is just devastating. So I wanted to share one of those feel-good stories where people were nice to each other and it made me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Over the weekend I saw the power of genuine kindness.

I was at the National Wallball Championships – yes, it’s a real thing. If you don’t know, basically wallball is handball played against a wall, and it’s a very serious sport. The National Championships had competitors from Sydney and Melbourne and most were part of a ‘chapter’ i.e. Redfern, Tamarrama etc. I went along because my friend Allan was competing, and as it turned out…Allan ended up becoming an absolute hero for one little boy.

Tony is no older than 14. He lives around Redfern and frequently goes along on Sundays to play with the wallball boys. He showed up on Saturday ready to compete, even though most of the players were at least six or seven years older than him. His parents weren’t there and from what I could tell he didn’t have any friends his own age with him either. Unfortunately, he got knocked out in the first round of the singles. He was gutted. After the game, a young lady found Tony in a side alley near the courts, on his own and very upset. She convinced him to come back to the comp and sign up for the doubles tournament.

As the doubles teams were being read out the announcer asked, “Is there anyone who hasn’t got a partner?” Tony put his hand up. “Anyone keen to partner Tony?” and from the back of the crowd my friend Allan raised his hand, “Yeah, I’ll go with him!” Now Allan was already down to play in the doubles comp, but unfortunately his partner couldn’t stay the rest of the day. So Allan and Tony partnered up

Allan and Tony played one game and won, quite easily. Then another and another. Pretty soon the two of them were into the semi-finals of the Men’s Doubles. Word of Tony ‘T-Bone’ and Allan Stormon aka The Weatherman spread throughout the competition and their semi-final clash was moved to Centre Court. This was a big moment. Allan’s quite an athlete who carried most of the running, but Tony could also hold his own with some tactful shots and tricky returns. Together they were a formidable force.

The crowd was building ahead of the big match, pep talks were happening side court and there was a genuine buzz of excitement at how this young kid had progressed through the tournament with the help and support of the one they call The Weatherman.

Game time.

Now, I don’t know a lot about Wallball but I imagine it doesn’t get much more exciting than this game. Every shot drew oo’s and ah’s from the crowd, every time T-Bone touched the ball there were cheers and each point was hard fought for.

Unfortunately, they didn’t win, but at the end of the game the entire crowd – about 150 people – started chanting “T-Bone, T-Bone, T-Bone!” The competitors shook hands and hugged and took their bows.

It was hard to get much out of Tony (he was a pretty quiet kid) but when he came off court I said to him, “How do you feel?”, “That was pretty cool” he responded, and a great big smile flashed across his face. Hours earlier, that boy was sitting alone in an alley and now a whole crowd of people were chanting his name. Allan embraced Tony and the rest of the community followed by celebrating the fact that he was having a go. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if there were more people like Allan who in a moment of unselfishness decided to make someone feel included?

Sometimes we just need to remember that being nice to each other is pretty darn good.

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