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On the shoulders of Knights

| Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Between a set of double doors, 16 men from Keenan Hall raised a fellow Knight on their shoulders and sang “Happy Birthday” to him at the top of their lungs.

It was more screaming than singing. It was crowded. It only lasted a few minutes. And it was junior Kevin Schneier’s favorite moment of the fall semester.

Schneier wasn’t even the birthday boy. He was one of the squished men whose hands propped the celebrant up. But for Schneier, that song in a crowded cubicle was a moment of recognition of personal growth. It was a victory after a small defeat.

Earlier that day, Schneier’s hallmates had agreed to join him for dinner on Eddy Street after their section football game, which they were favored to win and were “riled up” about. The team ranked No. 1 in the Keenan football league, but after a 0-0 tie in the regular game and a quadruple overtime series, his team lost.

This hit Schneier hard. Last year his team had also lost in the first round of playoffs, and it had ruined his day, he said. And this year, he could see the first years were taking the loss just like he had then. So Schneier decided to alter his mindset.

“I made an effort to be positive after the game,” he said.

The men returned to Keenan to shower and change, and Schneier convinced them to keep their plans to eat dinner on Eddy Street. (The dining hall being closed helped his case.) As the guys were about to walk out, they realized they were waiting on a few others and stopped in between a set of double doors to wait.

“The entire floor was covered with people. Not one more person could have fit,” Schneier said, estimating the airlock space to be about 5-by-5.

The guys were waiting for the last straggling first year to arrive, and it just so happened to be his birthday, so someone suggested they sing to him when he got there. When he came, “the front people just picked him up,” Schneier said.

“There were so many hands under him. It was like he was on a solid ground of hands.”

Sixteen men from Keenan Hall lifted their friend on their shoulders and began to sing.

“We were singing but we were laughing at the same time. We were yelling … as loud as possible.”

Picture this image. Picture this image and grin at the pure joy of it: A first year on the hands and shoulders of his friends, getting a birthday serenade. When Schneier told me about this moment at the end of the fall semester, I couldn’t get the scene out of my head. I wasn’t there, but it was impossible not to picture it and laugh at the simplicity and geniality of it. A bunch of dudes being dudes, singing, and laughing and yelling.

It’s small moments like these that detail a Notre Dame experience.

And it’s storytellers like Schneier who define a Notre Dame student. Schneier’s favorite memory wasn’t one where he was the center of attention — he wasn’t the one being lifted — it was a private recognition of growth.

As we entered the Lenten season, we heard a gospel from Matthew telling us to give alms in secret, not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing. This gospel always leaves me ill at ease, for I know I seek and value recognition. After Schneier told me his favorite moment, I thought back to some of my own. Many included accomplishments that gained recognition: a good grade on an essay, say, or being chosen as an interviewee for a summer internship. And, yes, these accomplishments deserve celebration. But they are not the only moments that defined my semester.

Let’s not just remember the interhall games we won or the audiences who stood up to applaud for us after concerts. Let’s remember the small things that perhaps went unrecognized: the late nights spent comforting a crying friend, vacuuming the rug when your roommates were in class and the moments of camaraderie like the one expressed in Keenan Hall that Friday night. For these are accomplishments done in secret.

That evening in Keenan Hall, Schneier proved to himself that one person’s attitude can make a difference. They had lost their game, but his individual efforts to stay positive resulted in the Knights coming together to celebrate a friend.

After the singing “no one remembered the football game,” Schneier said. “We sprinted out the door. We were doing parkour on the rocks.”

“I feel like that was the victory right there,” he said. “I felt so proud to be a part of that group even though we had just come off a crushing loss. … This is what I wanted college to be.”

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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