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  • Reverend James Squire

A Different Hall of Fame



 

There seems to be a Hall of Fame for many different aspects of life. We usually associate a Hall of Fame with the world of sports. The first college basketball game that I saw when studying in the South was at the Reynolds Coliseum on the campus of N.C. State University. Those southern fans had a different level of excitement for their teams. N. C. State was Vicki’s university, so we had a wonderful time this year watching the men’s and women’s team go deep into the final games in the tournament. Yes, I cheered for State over Duke where I spent some time.

 

But there is another Hall of Fame that I want to write about. It is the Hall of Fame populated by people who go from nothing to something. Dawn Staley is certainly at the top of the list for that one as well as being a player and coach in basketball. She grew up in the Projects of North Philadelphia and went to public school where she achieved significant success as a player in high school, and then Virginia where she received accolades for her achievements. She represented our nation to garner even more praise. Now she is a coaching legend taking a brand-new team to the championship after last year’s team graduated.

 

When the final whistle blew, she left the world of having it altogether to the world of being doubled over with relief which told her truth of how deeply she cares for her players and winning that final game. She sobbed!

 

This blog is about something else including some folks at EA. Critics thought that she used too much religious language after the win. They somehow missed a final statement about the importance of belief that she spoke about as her core. Her words were, “We serve an unbelievable God. He rips your heart out and makes you believe the unimaginable. Thank you, Jesus! If you don’t believe in God, there is something wrong with you because he makes things come true.” It is the same as saying that if you don’t watch women’s basketball, there’s something wrong with you.  It is a figure of speech. She went on to say something that people brushed aside.

 

Her last words were, I’m not going to apologize for what I said and what I feel for I’m going to salute God as much as I can because I know it’s not just my doing. What a great statement of humility! Do those who criticized her think that faith was at her core just for that tournament and not for her whole life? Give me a break. As Lebron James texted, “Protect Dawn Staley at all costs. No ifs and or buts.”

 

So, how did my liberal friends come to their conclusion and disapproved of Staley’s words. I am sure that it has something to do with some evangelicals in our nation supporting Trump who has broken every religious law known to humankind and think that he will bring about Christian Nationalism. They have sold their souls. Have you purchased your Trump Bible yet? He is shameless.

 

But I would have Dawn Staley be a chapel speaker in a heartbeat to give the remarks that people are currently criticizing her for. Why? One of the guidelines that I have is to echo the words of LeBron James is that no one addresses my students by saying, you believe my way or else next stop hell. My community represents most religions known to humankind and the various conservative and liberal positions within those denominations. A liberal Episcopalian, Jew, or Muslim will have different ethical dimensions from someone who is more conservative. It was my job to make sure that a spectrum of beliefs is presented to our community with our core being the Christian faith. The guideline was that they should say what empowers them about their faith. Yes, I did have members who were struggling with their belief systems. That goes along with their developmental moral stage. They are seekers. I supported them as well.

 

Like Lebron, I had to protect my diverse community at all costs. There could be no statements such as “my way or the highway.” Tell the community how your faith is important to you. Tell them that you have faith and doubts and that is OK as well.

 

An example would serve here. I had a family ask me if an evangelical Christian speaker who they thought was great could speak in chapel. I had evangelicals speak to our community. I told everyone that regardless of religious orientation that “they could speak about how important their faith is to them and how it empowers their lives, but no “you believe this or else.” All got it that they were speaking to a religiously diverse congregation except one! This person and I were meeting in the back of the chapel, and he told me point blank that he wouldn’t follow my guidelines and talk about the importance of his faith to him and said, “all people should be Christians.” He was rude, self-righteous, and treated me with great disrespect.

 

We went nose to nose and I assured him that if he insulted my community, I would remove him from the pulpit the first time I heard any disrespect. Suffice it to say he had to adjust his canned remarks. The family thanked me after the service while the guest refused to acknowledge my presence.

 

I believe that one’s faith is empowered not by something that is taught as much as by something that is caught. Hence, Dawn Staley ‘s words by a future Hall of Famer were put out there to be caught. How else did she go from nobody to somebody. Most of those stories have a faith component. She is a Hall of Famer in sport but also in life and a spokesperson for the central core her of her life which is her faith leading her to happiness.

 

Marty Seligman who was a parent at EA, a friend as well as the founder of Positive Psychology describes the process leading to happiness. The first level that we pass through is pleasure where we think pleasure is happiness. It is the Hollywood brand of happiness, but it is short lived. Some never get beyond this stage.

 

The second level is engagement when we discover that what gives us happiness is our important relationships with others that we nourish in our relationships with those people.

John Donne said, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man (or woman) is part of the continent, part of the main.” Some people achieve this level as well and it gives them enough satisfaction that they stay th

But Staley’s life reaches the highest level of happiness, level three, which positive psychology refers to as being committed to something bigger than us. It can be a relationship with God, with a team, with helping the homeless such as Sister Mary Scullion does. It’s when we find joy by helping others. It is not transactional. It desires the best in that relationship with our God or with our team. That is why young people and coaches get so much happiness by seeing the joy in their players’ lives or if you are a band director seeing that awareness that great music is accomplished often by an orchestra. We see this in the happiness of a conductor who takes the varied instruments and produces one sound that lifts our spirits. I know this not only by watching Staley but my own son who was the conductor of the Princeton University Orchestra.

 

People who arrive at level three know that it involves many forms of effort. You can’t fake the spontaneous declaration that Staley declared bent over. It really was about her God and her team. She is a Hall of Famer of happiness.

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