Some of you may know that I’m a Buckeye. This means that I graduated from The Ohio State University, but to make the significance even deeper, I grew up in Ohio most of my life. So even though I’ve lived in New England for 16 years, I still watch with fervor as many OSU games as I can and go crazy when the Buckeyes win. For the uninitiated, the Buckeyes won the Big Ten Championship and are off to the Rose Bowl.
As the OSU team enters the headlines again in anticipation of the upcoming Bowl games, so, too, have I read more about the team’s coach, Urban Meyer. For some reason I was under the impression he was a mensch (good person). Unfortunately, when he resigned as coach recently, some of his less than admirable actions at his prior coaching position at the University of Florida, as well as during his tenure at Ohio State, became news. Underlying it all was his motivation to win at all costs, to attract the best, to push aside what may interfere with the goal to win. As I sadly read, it reminded me of my experience with my son’s first Little League coach, to quote: “I know you’ve heard that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Well, not on my team. It’s whether you win or lose and we win!” (We didn’t last long with that team.)
In fairness to Coach Meyer, he, as well as my son’s little league coach, fell victim to and became part of their environment. NCAA football, and recruiting, are vicious, all about winning and getting talent at all costs. Competitive sports by definition attract gifted athletes. Coaches are in positions to serve as role models, to help their charges grow in their talents and to uplift others with their competitive spirits.
Combating the status quo takes amazing inner strength, such as that shown by Tim Tebow whose actions to kneel and pray before a game are now officially referred to as “tebowing”. He played football in the same environment, and yet, he made a very different choice – to bring God into the stadium. Some mock it. Others consider it virtuous. There is always a choice for our next step on the journey.
No matter our politics, a life well lived was experienced by all of us recently as we watched the funeral and observances for President George H. W. Bush. I don’t even want to unpack what mistakes he may or may not have made politically. The impact of his death on a hurting society outweighs his failings. The healing benefit of so many of us listening to uplifting eulogies, watching teary faces as the train passed through Texas, hearing of the generosity to others, the giving back, soothed our spirits. We remembered that it is possible for our people to come together for the right reasons. There is hope.
Recently a beloved elementary school teacher in our area passed on. He had been a teacher for 32 years so had touched many lives. So much so, that the district closed school for the day of the funeral knowing that most teachers would not be available to teach that day. Locally it felt on par with President Bush’s passing. Here, one regular person, an elementary school teacher, had changed the world, had made it a place of peace and love, literally for thousands of students, their families, his peers, and multiple generations, including the people his students touched.
Yeshua was a rabbi, a teacher. Each of us teach, or coach, in our own ways as we share our hearts and giftings with others. A congregational leader sharing thoughts in a sermon. Mom showing Sam how to drive. Dad teaching Sarah how to make pancakes. A cashier training the new person. An employee mentoring the new hire.
A lawyer forgiving her associate for errors on a brief. A musician overlooking the wrong notes of a fellow musician. A customer handing back wrong change to the cashier. A parent taking a child to help at a food pantry. Each of us being kind to another who makes a mistake.
You don’t have to be the President, in fact it’s probably easier not to be, to live a life filled with honesty, integrity, and compassion for others. Yeshua lived among us not as a king with splendorous apparel, but rather as a common man who walked a path modeled for each of us to follow. As we near the remembrance of His birth, may we be reminded and encouraged to walk in His way.