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  • Reverend James Squire

August 18

It is August 18th. This is a date that never goes by without me thinking way back to my high school football days. It is the date that we left for football camp at Camp Conrad Weiser. I always felt caught between dread and excitement, but it has given me a key to what really motivates me. It is about discovering a truth that has guided me and others throughout our lives for centuries.

I would do all of the required summer training exercises such as running and weight lifting but that

did not change my reality, I was a 5 foot 10 inch, 121 pound lineman. My neighbor and teammate, Bernard Smondrowski, was a 6 foot 6 inch, 230 pound tackle. We were quite a contrast walking to practice each day. Today we have a word to describe me, undersized. I was among the smallest players on the team. We took a beating. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. For me the spirit was willing but there was not enough flesh to make a difference. We were at camp far from home to create bonding and also to go through three practices a day that were exercises in controlled violence. Bear Bryant, legendary football coach at Alabama, would have been smiling. I was injured during the camp and could hardly walk, but returned to practice when we arrived home. Being unskilled and undersized is a deadly combination for a want to be offensive guard and defensive middle linebacker. No matter what I did, I would be relegated to the practice squad.

So why did I continue? I don’t think it had anything to do with grit, resilience, or perseverance. I know, without a doubt, thinking back on it every August 18th since then, that it had to do with my desire to be a part of something that I valued, that was bigger than me, where I felt that the team was more important than anything that I did. There was nothing pleasurable about it, but I did get the respect of the team as they always pulled for me. I graduated valedictorian of my high school class, and was surprised to receive the scholar athlete award as well, since I never got off the practice squad.

What does this have to do with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement? Can you imagine Jesus’ disciples being frustrated by required to wear masks, to social distance, and to wash their hands in order to bring their message to the world? Can you imagine an essential worker saying this is just too hard? Can you imagine a member of the Naval Academy saying that he just couldn’t comply in order to be in the military of our nation? I was a harsh judge reading in today’s paper about the hundreds of students who attended a beer party at a Georgia College before school started with no adherence to healthy guidelines. I have had it with those who cry “personal freedom” and “nobody is going to tell me what to do. I am going to party”. It is the same for those who criticize the protesters. They share something with the looters and people who have chosen violence.

I have not seen the real issue until now as I sit here and think about what August 18th means to me. I believe that the refusal to wear masks and adhere to the guidelines, the people who loot and are using this as a vehicle for personal thrill and gain, and those who criticize what the REAL protesters are trying to do have never had an experience that made them see that the welfare of the group is more important than the concerns of the individual. I don’t believe that they have had an experience that has significantly impacted them to sacrifice for others. Such an experience can set a pattern for life and can create a place where true joy can be found. I guess I should feel sorry for them. I know that I didn’t understand that pattern when I first arrived at Camp Conrad Weiser. The important thing is that having that date pop up every year guarantees that I know it now.

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