Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Team Players

Dear friend,

I wanted to share with you some great news: we’re on the same team. I don’t care if you like the colors of your flag better or think your national anthem’s tune is catchier than mine. I don’t care that your skin is lighter, darker, more freckly, wrinkled. I don’t care if you even understand me or not. Or can decipher my alphabet. A smile trespasses all frontiers. A tear dances on boundaries. Laughter melts away formality, music erases stiffness, steaming food lifts perimeters. And we all understand those things. We all understand.

What I care about are not our differences, our colors, our unique identities—beautiful as they are. I care about our oneness despite it all. And I wanted to remind you of the great news despite your political affiliation, religious denomination, language, gender or yearly income in case you forgot: we’re all on the same team.

We all have the same beginning and end. There is an end, you know, whether you care to think about it or not. I can’t tell you what happens after this now that we’ve been given. But I can tell you that this now is important because it’s all we’ve got. And I wanted to remind you that it can be used to build up the rest of our team--the one with millions of different players--because we’re stronger that way.

We’re stronger when our players are better nourished, better rested, better educated, better treated. We’re stronger when everyone shows up bringing their hundred percent. We’re stronger when our needs and wants and actions aren’t always the center of attention in a world so obsessed with gratifying these first. We’re stronger when we can weigh our wants, discern them, and realize that those of others may be more dire or relevant or important.   

It’s easier said than done. I wanted the fourth taco, for example. But I said I was full. Why?  It meant I got even stronger nourishment: my mom’s smile…and a sigh of relief from my thighs.

Friend, life hurts a lot of the time. So we jump from small, fragile, beautiful moment to the next, savoring each along the way. Sometimes, the leap seems too far, to take too long. We barely reach the next stepping stone or have to swim a while before getting to it when the next leap comes along. Sometimes there’s fog. But the next stepping stone is there. And this knowledge, and the knowledge of the past one, sustains us for the next leap. Sometimes it doesn’t. That's when we need our teammates to step in—offering the knowledge of the next stepping stone, directions, encouragement or just a partner to leap with. This is how we get stronger.   

My beautiful moments, my stepping stones, take many forms these days, in phone calls, texts, e-mails, conversations.  In the prayer sent, the reading referenced, the link to that article or comic or viral video, the quote from the movie, the song they can’t get out of their head, the letter in the mail, the picture of the moon.

These moments sustain me in the fog, the rain, the silence, the sunshine, the moonlight, the dawn, the leap. These moments poke me into remembering life’s meaning: that we are all on the same team. And it’s time to help one another keep playing. Not so that we may win every single day. Because we are not going to win every single day. Not so that we may be the best. Because we are just called to be better. But because we win when we reach the next stepping stone or when we help someone else to. We win when our teammates are their best selves. We win when we are our best selves. We win when we share our best selves with others. But we need each other's help sometimes in order to get there. I need your help and you need mine.

So cheer me on, will ya? And in the meantime, I’ll cheer for you.