Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 2:32:03 AM
About a year ago, my cousin Joseph decided to create his own sports tradition: speaking almost exclusively about ice hockey, more specifically Capitals ice hockey.
"I love the Caps! Did you know they have a shot at making the playoffs again this year?! Can I watch a video of Alexander Ovechkin on your smart phone?! Can you believe that shot he just made?!!! He's a legend!!!"
I have to admit, when he first fell for the team, I couldn't follow a thing he was saying. As in… I had never paid an iota of attention to the NHL.
So initially, I pretty much just smiled, did my best to be “polite.” But you gotta realize that Joe is equivalent to the brother I never had. When you really love someone, it’s inevitable that you will at least start to respect the items they love.
Moreover, if hockey was what he loved, then there had to be some way I could use it to teach him something worthwhile. I made it a point to bring up the Caps in conversations. I began to take note of how they were doing, and was genuinely psyched when they made the 2012 playoffs. When Joe took up hockey for himself, I promised to attend at least one of his practices and followed through. I wanted him to know that I would always be there for him and that I loved him for who he was.
What I didn't expect was all he would teach me. I asked him why he liked playing hockey so much, and he said that although it is hard work, there is plenty of time for fun. Often I find in my own life that I already get so caught up in perfectionism and achievement that I forget how life was intended to be: fun. Because so many hockey players are from outside the United States, he has also become interested in other cultures. At nine years old, he asks questions that many do not even ponder until well into adulthood:
"I love learning about other countries, like Canada and Russia and Sweden. People from those places aren't that different than us, are they? They love each other and want the world to be a better place just like we do. They‘re God‘s creatures, too."
I stare intently at someone who looks like any other schoolboy. If he can see that we're all created in the same likeness, with essentially the same desire for benevolence, why can’t we?
It’s crazy how Jesus could use something as unthinkable as a kid’s love for hockey to remind me of the innocence we were all meant to have, how it's okay not to win everything as long as you enjoy yourself while trying, how we should cherish each and every person He has made.
So here’s to the fourth grader who wound up being the best teacher I’ve ever had. Thanks, Joe-vechkin!