“Let the Children Come to Me”
Brian Sheehan (CVV 14)
Brian spent much of his summer coaching soccer in the Denver metro area. Native of Denver, he is a Notre Dame Alum and wearer of many hats. He is introspective, intentional and thoughtful through and through. To date, he is the first alum to write his reflection at CVV.
‘The community of engineers’…what does that mean? I heard that term tossed around not long ago, and couldn’t help but think the word community was just a space filler – sounds official and pleasant, but doesn’t signify much.
Community, as many unwittingly use the term, seems to connote little more than a random spattering of people loosely tithed by an arbitrary label. Community approached haphazardly in this way doesn’t grasp the essence of deep collective unity amidst an often daunting plurality of individual interests, temperaments, and world views.
Community is more than a sticker-label. It sprouts from the roots of character, values, and vision. The sense of vision need not be complex, nor does a community have to be large to be authentic (“Where two or more are gathered… Matt 18:20). A real community can be as grandiose as an order of Trappist-Benedictine monks spanning across the entire planet united in prayer, but it can also be as simple as a local youth soccer team whose members are united by nothing more than the joy of learning how to kick a ball better, week after week, alongside their buddies.
I’ve worn a slew of professional hats post CVV: bank teller, bathroom tile cutter, 5th grade teacher. Yet no venture satisfies me quite like coaching soccer. Like any worthwhile endeavor, the job has its moments which indeed drive a reasonable person’s sensibilities toward the solitude of a Trappist hermitage. Make no mistake; I am a competitive level coach. Pupils under my tutelage are expected to be purposeful in developing measurable degrees of soccer-mastery. Yet even coaches of my admittedly intense temperament regularly identify how youth sports, at their worst, can wreak of toxic hyper-competitiveness, angry loss of perspective, and a cutthroat business mentality which mistakes children for commodities.
Everyone from time to time needs a reminder: a reminder that, in the difficult throes of the vocational paths we tread, there is a reason we chose to embark upon the journey in the first place. And with few exceptions, community serves as the occasion for such reminders.
Team is my community.
Our goals are uncomplicated, our numbers are small (12 pupils to be exact), and our vision is simple: To have something tangible to show – a trophy, a medal, etc. – which reflects our process marked by values of joy, discipline, collaboration, and friendship.
The smallest boy on the team is my reminder.
We won a tournament recently. Our team, “The Demons”, registered to compete against older children for a challenging change of pace in the beautiful setting of Carbondale, Colorado. As the final whistle blew, each child was so excited that the ensuing dog-pile of stinky, sweaty, happy ten year old boy bodies was the only appropriate celebratory action to match their enthusiasm.
I watched from my coach’s perch on the sideline, clapping for them and smiling along with them. But one child, the most diminutive, freckle-faced of the bunch, came sprinting to me first much to my surprise before getting tangled in celebration with the rest of his teammates. Running toward me with open arms, I picked him up in a twirl of momentum. I forget sometimes that my skeletal frame is about six times more massive than the children I coach, the ease with which I was able to give him an elevated hug before releasing him to join the throng of victoriously tangled arms and legs momentarily surprised me.
Jesus says “Let the children come to me” (Matt 19:4). Are these words a hint for us, now, in modern times? Or did Jesus himself simply need a reminder of Grace in the trying times of his own difficult vocational journey? I can’t say for certain why he said this. Yet I do know that I heard these words in Carbondale, Colorado that day, “Let the children come to me”, and that by hearing them I am prompted to ponder the ways in which Grace permeates the particulars of my own life’s purpose.
For me, at this juncture of life, no such recollection could have taken place outside the simple, purposeful, joyful soil of team community.