I think we can all agree that this was a disheartening week for our country. Murders, racial disparity, and conflict. Tensions are understandably high all around.
As #BeyondTheField Director, I promote our 10 core values that we teach throughout the year. They’re all relatively simple, but as one seeks to understand how the values can be lived out daily, they are deep as ever. Last week’s core value was selflessness, and after meditating on it a bit, the following thought came to mind. “Let us be quick to listen and slow to speak. Rich in love and slow to anger.” Here’s a pretty amazing example of that.
Now more than ever, it’s important for us to live out selflessness through relationships, not through Facebook. It’s much easier to sit at a computer or say an opinion or thought in a comment thread. It’s a lot harder to actively, humbly, and empathetically listen to someone else, especially if his or her background or thoughts vary even slightly from ours.
As I’ve been able to volunteer in the Grassroots Initiative, the free clinics RCFC offers from 6-7pm around different areas in Grand Rapids, I’ve surrounded myself with people of all ages who are different than myself. It gives me the opportunity to get out of my typical circle of white friends and embrace the beautiful diversity that is Grand Rapids through relationship and soccer. Relationships are what allow us to empathize in order to counter indifference.
I’ve been proud to be part of a soccer club that seeks to unite Grand Rapids through the game of soccer by making it accessible to all ages, genders, ethnicities, incomes, races, and any other sort of differences that could divide humans. There’s something to be said about how the game of soccer can bring communities together. Take the World Cup for example- when the world freezes for a bit in unity through the game of soccer.
I believe the RCFC community has a role to play in the present day of fear and it’s essential to our Three C’s of Capability, Character, and Community. We all play an important role in educating the next generation of united peacemakers through core values and learning lessons in all aspects of life. I also hope that our community can see the value in our Grassroots Initiative and that it allows our players, coaches, and parents to be stretched in working towards an inclusive, diverse, community in Grand Rapids.
I also hope that #RascalNation can be a force for unity and community through diversity in Grand Rapids, because it’s needed.
Yes, many articles have stated that Grand Rapids is one of the best places to raise a family. That is, if you’re in the right neighborhood. Many studies have also established Grand Rapids as one of the worst cities in the country for African Americans to live.
And while articles, stats and new stories are all insightful, they also have the potential to distract us from the simple fact that we need to be in relationship with people different than us and simply love our neighbor. Last week, I was moved more towards apathy than action through reading long-winded opinions on social media. But later in the day, I was privileged to meet a hilarious 7 year African American boy named Rain at Garfield park as part our Grassroots Initiative, offering free soccer clinics throughout various Grand Rapids parks. In that moment, I forgot all about what I read and could simply just relate to him through the game of soccer.
It’s beautiful when you can crack jokes with someone who’s “different” than you. It’s beautiful when we can simply practice being familiar around people who are “different” than us so we can see people and not color. And it’s beautiful when you can compete with or against people who are different than you. Soccer is a tool to bring together. And guess what? It’s the most popular and diverse of all sports around the world! So how can we do that in Grand Rapids?
It’s not easy being selfless and thinking outside of ourselves and our own comforts, but it’s much needed…now more than ever. So what does selflessness require of YOU and US to be a light in this darkness?
I think for us as individuals, we’re called to actively listen and empathize, strategically think about what our sphere of influence is in society, and to act and do something, whether that’s sitting down for five minutes to read an article of engaging in conversation with your Rascal.
And for us, let’s continue to dream of a future where our club can be a light amidst dark times such as these. Where we can proactively address the structural problems in Grand Rapids by uniting all races, ethnicities, genders, and incomes through the game of soccer.
Up until August 18, we’ll be at four Grand Rapids parks from 6-7pm:
We’d love to see you and your player there. For more information on the Grassroots Initiative and how to get involvedclick here.
Feel free to add to the comment section below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, concerns…or better yet, ideas 😉
To conclude, below is a benediction that I found relevant and moving this past week. Let us not become desensitized amidst all of the news headlines and continue to be drawn to selfless empathy for those afflicted.
May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that He may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
– A Franciscan Benediction