Irreplaceable persons


Various streams of thought in my life at the moment:

Marge’s funeral later this morning at the church.  Once again, moved by the story of her life that I’ve been hearing — so much I didn’t know.  There is such nobility hidden away in ordinary lives.

Monday I served a day of jury duty.  Called before the judge to serve on one particular jury, I was released because of my duty to officiate at Marge’s funeral. In essence, each person was asked by the judge, “Would serving on this jury into next week (fulfilling your duty as a citizen) keep you from some essential task?”  Being available for Marge’s funeral seemed clear enough:  my presence is truly needed there.  But what about other assessments?  I spoke with a retired man who had told the judge there was nothing that he was obliged to do that would keep him from serving on the jury — he felt it was his duty to say this.  His daughter, however, was visiting from England, but that didn’t seem to him good enough reason to get himself excused.

It is a challenging question:  Where and when is my presence irreplaceable? Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind.  Three men:  priest, levite, and foreigner come upon a man in need, beaten at the side of the road. Apparently the priest and the Levite make an assessment that their presence is essential elsewhere — they can not stop.  The Samaritan presumably has places to be — we all do — but nothing seems more important at the moment than attending to this man at the side of the road.

My son’s soccer stirs up emotions.  His travel team has advanced to final eight in the state tournament; their next game will be played Saturday.  Exciting stuff.

On his middle school team, however, he seems to have fallen into disfavor with the coach and is riding the bench, while simultaneously getting bullied by older boys, which they claim as their perogative as upperclassmen relating to an underclassman.  His confidence is undermined.  There are valuable lessons to be learned here for my son (and for me) about perseverance and about experiencing what it feels like to be one of the oppressed.  He has expressed a new appreciation and compassion for kids he played with in the past whose athletic abilities were looked down upon. I suggested to him that later on, when he is the upperclassman, he can help change the humiliating culture of the team and treat underclassmen with more kindness and respect, and he seems to take to this idea. There is, nonetheless, a part of me that feels enraged on behalf of my son.  I know that it stirs up memories of similar sorts of experiences I had as a youth in the world of sports.

Sports require a delicate balance.  It can bring out the worst aspects of our culture, but it also can provide opportunity to learn what it means to be a part of a team and develop self-discipline and perseverence.  It can also be just plain fun. May it be so, Lord. Amen.

I tell my son as he goes off to school this morning that I am proud of him, and he gets it that it that I’m talking about how he is trying to deal with his little taste of adversity, which makes me all the prouder.


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