Friday, February 19, 2010

Before Mounting the Blocks

Morning swim meets start early. To have my son in the water by 7:00 am warm up means we’ve been up and going for quite a while before. By the time the National Anthem is played at 8:30 am, I’m well settled in and my second cup of coffee is growing cold. It’s been an exceptionally cold winter and on this Sunday morning, without all those students, the high school halls are really cold. Since I wasn’t needed as a timer for this meet, I armed myself with my homework for next weeks scripture study lesson on The Gospel of Mathew.

Given the option, I would prefer to time at swim meets. It allows me a great vantage point when my son swims, but mostly I enjoy being engaged in the meet; talking with the swimmers as they wait their turn behind the block and cheering them on as they swim. Swimming is a wonderful sport for children. Once in the water it’s just them against the pool. It provides opportunity for all levels of ability to participate and excel while emphasizing the social benefits of being part of a team.

I love encouraging a swimmer by telling them how many seconds they shaved off their individual best time, or consoling them in the event the “Grim Reaper” aka the Stroke Judge appears at my side with the dreaded “DQ”. No matter whose child it is, for those few moments they are mine, and even if they were dead last in their event, I get to tell them how proud I am of their efforts. So even though it may take hours to see my own son have his few minutes in the water, the meets go by quickly when I time and I really enjoy them.

But today as the anthem began to play I wasn’t standing next to the block by the pool, with wet ankles from back splash and already feeling balmy from the heat radiating off the indoor pool. I was sitting alone in the hallway outside the pool entrance, immersed in my homework. No one would have noticed if I stood for the anthem or not. But I did. Hand over my heart, I stood, not terribly gracefully – trying to balance my coffee and books while hoisting myself out of one of those folding camp chairs that sink really low – anyway I stood, and looked toward the doors where I assumed there was a flag.

From where I stood I couldn’t see the pool, much less a flag, but I did see a young, sweat suit clad little boy down the hall, drawing on a white board. He looked about eight years old. When he noticed me, he put down his marker, put his hand over his heart, and stood very straight and still until the anthem was finished. A few adults passed by us, racing to the pool entrance. One of them hesitated and as she reached the doorway stopped and put her hand over her heart. I felt a kinship with that little boy; we'd been a good example. In those brief moments, he was mine and I was proud of him, and we were both proud to be Americans. We smiled at each other and went back to our tasks.

Shortly after the anthem finished playing, a rather frazzled woman burst out of the pool entrance.

“Mathew, get in here, your next event is up!” I smiled and returned to question about chapter 17 when Jesus asked Peter who should pay the temple tax. (Matt 17:24-27). My young friend Mathew, had he not been busy lining up behind the blocks for the 10&Under 50 meter free style race, could have answered that. I think he would have said, “We all should, because it’s the right thing to do.” I think this knowledge wouldn’t have been intellectual, but visceral. Mathew would have understood that doing the right thing just feels right, even when it interrupts our fun, but that when we do it, we model right behavior for others.

In that moment I felt a deep sense of gratitude for my own upbringing, and for all the adults who modeled respect for me. I was grateful for young Mathew and his innate sense that it is important to do the right thing, not because anyone sees, just because. I was grateful to God, who knowing my very visual style of learning, provides so much more than homework questions as I strive to understand the concepts Jesus taught in the gospels.

What are the life lessons of the importance of respect for authority that others have modeled for you? I look forward to continuing my lesson through sharing your experiences!

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