Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
I have really enjoyed watching the Olympics over the last couple of weeks. They have been a welcome distraction from the news of the day and have provided us all with something to collectively cheer about. It seems too, that we cheer even more loudly when the person for whom we are barracking is the underdog or who has overcome an adversity along the way. There are many such stories which have emerged from the games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo. By way of example I would like to just highlight one.
One of my favourite pastimes is surfing. I have to admit to not being very good at it but I love it and I also have a little understanding of the skills, level of commitment and sometimes even the courage that is required to become a great surfer. At these Olympics, surfing was introduced as an official sport for the first time. Competing for Australia was a fellow by the name of Owen Wright. I would not classify Owen as a household name like Kelly Slater or Mick Fanning, but he has competed at the highest level of the sport for many years with some success.
In 2015 Wright was on the verge of winning his first world title when he sustained life changing injuries during practice at the notorious pipeline break in Hawaii. As a result of his accident Owen suffered traumatic brain injury caused by concussion and bleeding on the brain. During months of rehabilitation, he had to learn to walk again, let alone be able to stand up on a surfboard. It took Owen 4 months to return to a surfboard and over a year before he was able to compete again.
After winning the bronze medal in Tokyo last week Owen spoke about the many battles he had gone through in the last few years. He said that it had been his family and close friends who stood beside him and supported him along with the goal of achieving his Olympic dream that kept him going through the darker times.
Sometimes, it is only when we know the full story of a person’s life and experiences that we can truly appreciate what they have achieved. I am privileged to know the stories of some of the members of the Whitefriars community. Stories of students whose circumstances are so difficult that they should be applauded for just making it through the gates of school each day. Stories of parents who sacrifice so much, particularly during this time of pandemic, for the benefit of their children. Staff who give and give beyond that which should be expected even when their own lives are challenging enough.
Knowing these stories gives me a greater appreciation for the efforts and achievements of our community. The stories of these people remind me though, of the many stories of which I am not aware. Stories of hardship, emotionally, financially, physically, which are part of the fabric of the daily lives of many in the Whitefriars family. I am reminded too, therefore, not to be quick to judge the behaviour of others. Rather to do my best to understand the circumstances of their lives and to know how best to walk with and encourage them.
In Luke’s Gospel (Chapter 6) Jesus speaks of this very idea. Below I have provided two versions of the passage which puts into words the ideas presented above far better than I could.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
In other words, …
37-38 Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity brings generosity.