Monday, April 21, 2014

Swim Meets and Sacrificial Love

Last weekend, my son competed in his first swim meet.
This past weekend, we celebrated Easter.
I can connect the two, and not in a heretical way.

As part of the swim meet, every school was required to offer some volunteers to help manage the event. Since there was a grand total of one participant from my son's school, that meant that I was the de facto volunteer representative. I was awake and at the pool at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. This is not my typical Saturday morning routine. I like to sleep in until late in the morning. Yet, here I was, distributing deck passes and checking names at the volunteer registration desk for pool-side jobs I had no clue about what they actually entailed.

When driving back home to pick up my son for his event, I had a sudden and sobering realization. I was suffering from a wee bit of sleep deprivation for this single competition, but when I was a child, my own parents did this often, for many competitions, without complaint. I used to be a baton twirler and my mom and dad would get up at 4:00 a.m. on a Saturday, pack the car with all our costumes, batons, and equipment, and drive all the way to Kitchener or Guelph or Buffalo for a baton competition. They would sit in cold, hard seats in gymnasiums and watch us march in squares or perform our solo / duet / group routines, for hours and hours.

My sister (right) and I (left) with trophies earned from twirling.
Posing in the driveway in our costumes.

Back then, I never realized the amount of time, money, and effort they devoted to giving us these opportunities to compete. This doesn't even include the times they drove us to participate in the annual Easter Parade down by the Beach, or walking us to (and paying for) our lessons, or sewing our costumes, or any of the dozens of tasks my parents undertook. It was quite the sacrifice, and it was done out of love.

In our parade uniforms.
Don't forget the cost of photographs, like this duet shot.

At church this past week, we hear the story about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. In one of the homilies given (I can't remember if it was Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Sunday - I have to confess I skipped Easter Vigil), the connection between sacrifice and love was made clear. I've also been reading the Lenten reflections of Father Robert Barron sent to me daily via email and he had this to say about Suffering Love (on April 12, 2014, in his email "Lent Day 39"):

When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, the Nazi soldiers imposed their penalty. They took all of the prisoners from the escapee's barracks and lined them up, and then at random chose a man to be put to death in retaliation. When the man broke down in tears, protesting that he was the father of young children, a quiet bespectacled man stepped forward and said, "I am a Catholic priest; I have no family. I would like to die in this man's place."
Pope John Paul II later canonized that priest, Saint Maximilian Kolbe. With brutal clarity, Kolbe allows us to see the relationship between suffering willingly accepted and salvation. He was consciously participating in the act of his Master, making up, in Paul's language, what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ.
... When a mother stays up all night, depriving herself of sleep, in order to care for a sick child, she is following this same example, suffering so that some of his suffering might be alleviated. When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love.
I am so grateful for Jesus' suffering love, and I want to thank my parents this Easter weekend for their own example of sacrificial love. They are great role models for me. My son participated in his first race - he didn't finish it (long story) but his two minutes in the competition pool were worth the three hours of volunteer time I donated that day.

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