This past week (back in January 2015), I had the good fortune to hear former Seton Captain Ray Bennett speak to The Chief’s senior religion classes about how great it is to be Catholic in the real world. I was struck by so much of what he said, but one part of his talk struck me in particular – especially after watching how some of us let how we feel about some our fellow swimmers affect our attitudes and actions.
Ray told a story of how, in his classes, everyone wanted to sit in a particular row where the “cool” kids sat. It sort of reminded me of watching how the seating arrangements shook out on the bus trip we took down to Richmond this past year. Well one day, Ray noticed a kid in his class who was decidedly uncool. Getting tired of competing for a seat with the cool kids, he decided to step out of his comfort zone and befriend this kid. In the process, Ray learned some valuable lessons:
- He was much happier for being true to himself and serving others. If you have to sit in a certain seat to be accepted into a group, it makes you wonder.
- He was able to have a profound impact on this kid’s life. I don’t know who he was, but Ray described a kid who came out of his shell and started to excel, even socially. In fact, Ray ended the story by saying that this kid eventually got Seton’s top award for living what it means to be a Seton student.
Ray got me thinking about what happens when you pick at least some of your friends based on what you can do for them versus what they can do for you. Even us Coaches and Teachers could do well to remember that, the kids upon whom we can have the most profound impact are not always the most talented. A top student is probably going to be a top student whether or not they have us as a teacher, coach or friend, but the kids who are struggling in some way – maybe academically, maybe athletically or maybe socially – now those are the kids upon whose lives we can have a truly profound impact. But it sometimes takes Courage, and it almost always takes Charity.
Even at a school as Catholic as Seton, you don’t have to look very far to find examples of where the virtue of Charity is trumped by Pride – or Self-Righteousness. Sure, for you swimmers there are kids on the team that bug you for one reason or another, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be friendly with everyone on the team. You never know who’s life you are going to change forever – just by even small acts of selfless kindness.
So in these last two weeks of the season, let’s all make an effort to talk to someone with whom we’ve never talked. Let’s sit next to someone with whom we’ve never sat. Let’s eat lunch next to someone with whom we’ve never eaten. Then let’s ask ourselves how it feels. I think you’ll find that it feels pretty darn cool.