Portrait group picture with Blair Walsh
News Alumni, Community

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh scores compassion from first grade class

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Haters gonna hate when it comes to Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missing the mark on Sunday’s final play. But Sarah Myhre, University of Northwestern—St. Paul alum and first-grade teacher at Northpoint elementary in Blaine, thought, "There's another way."

She, along with the other first-grade teachers, seized the opportunity to teach their impressionable young students what it looks like to show empathy—and even tougher to exemplify—grace.

As students returned to school this week, Myhre observed bitterness in her classroom over the crushing Vikings loss. "They were starting to pick up on what parents and fans were saying, like, 'Oh, he should be fired.' "

Myhre quickly decided to channel the conversation in an uplifting direction. As a practicing Christian, Myhre believes "we all fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and that we are called to treat one another with the same, pure love and grace that Jesus extends to us.

Though her students may not share her specific religious beliefs, the widespread mantra "treat others the way you would like to be treated" rings true for many.

Myhre was able to sway the atmosphere more positively with a fitting curriculum assignment: Write a letter that shows empathy and encouragement. The students chose to practice the assignment by writing to Walsh with sentiments like, "You can do it," "We still love you," "Everybody makes mistakes," and "Don't worry about it, you will get it next time!"

letter from first grader to Blair Walsh

A timely teaching moment turned into a whole lot more than anyone could've expected. WCCO-TV picked up on it, creating a video of the students reading their letters aloud, which gained major viral traction. Other media outlets were soon to follow, including ESPN, the NFL and The Minnesota Vikings. The story even became Facebook's top trending topic.

But, perhaps the greatest result was that Walsh, moved by the students' displays of empathy, decided to show up in Myhre's classroom yesterday. "The students were in awe. Their faces lit up and they were captivated by every word he spoke to them," Myhre said it was clear that Walsh was a role model to them, and a humble, kind-hearted one at that.

"I'm here to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Seriously, that cheered me up a lot," Walsh said thanking the students. You can view the touching speech-in-full here.

"I'll remember this forever," Walsh said in a video on MinnesotaVikings.com, which brings to mind yet another lesson to be remembered—Kindness goes a long way.

Myhre recalls, "It was amazing for the kids to see the impact that one small act of kindness had on Blair and so many people. Christ calls us to love, no matter what. That's what these kids did in the most simple and beautiful way."

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