Superheroes

January 19th began as an ordinary day on BYU campus. The skies were overcast and gray, with busy students shouldering heavy backpacks hurrying to class to begin their days. The early morning scene on campus holds a quiet reverence, as everything from sleepy students, to awakening buildings stir out of the quiet predawn slumber. However, the morning quiet was broken as busses full of local 6th graders started unloading masses of children who are bursting with enthusiasm this day to get a glimpse of their “heroes.” Revered names begin to drop from their lips as they start guessing who they’ll see. Kyle Van Noy, Riley Nelson, Brandon Davies, “Juice” Quezada, Futi Tavana, Cody Hoffman, or Charles Abouo are among those mentioned most.

You see, for this one day, these kids have left familiar surroundings and come hoping for more. I know some of their situations, the broken homes, the unemployed parents, and especially the mean spirited comments of their peers. This is the age that they notice examples. They see good and bad examples each day in their life, and from them they take bits and pieces that become the fabric that forms their lives. For this day, they get to escape the fear of what they look like, what they say, and the confusion of who they are, and meet what they perceive as “perfect” people.

I get to work with the athletes at BYU in my job. I know they are not perfect. I know they have their own challenges, their own fears, and mean comments that come from a passionate fan base. I know they are trying to figure out their futures and form their identities also. There are striking physical differences, yet subtle similarities between the two groups who are coming together on this day.

I’m touched as I see the teams going to their assigned locations. The swim/dive team is in the pool, showing the kids their remarkable skills, but taking time to teach about hard work. The volleyball team begins to navigate around a court filled with kids and wayward balls, yet getting their attention to talk about sportsmanship. Football players have tackling dummies, and other kids running pass routes, but still they teach about perseverance overcoming adversity. The tracks, pools, gyms, and courts today become about education, not athletic performance.

And as autographed items are filled, expectations are exceeded, and admiration swells, I feel happy. I see the kids catch the vision of being great in life, of being heroes in school, friendships, and family. I see the athletes leave behind the pressure of practices, school, and competition as they enjoy the energy of the kids. For one day, the frustrations and fears of life are superseded by the sweet spirit of service that hopefully will influence both the kids and athletes in future decisions and adversities.

James Lark gives an amazing talk along with Riley Nelson to the group. Their words are inspiring, their examples admirable. Yet, the stories that they don’t share of tremendous determination and dedication make their message resonate more with me. That they compete for the same position and playing time on a daily basis, yet support and help each other so much is a powerful message. Riley shares how when he was asked to play defense, that James was his biggest support to pursue his dream at quarterback touches me. I learn competition to be great is what these men have learned, not competition to defeat your competition.

Christie Carpenter, Charles Abouo, Brock Zylstra, Kyle Van Noy, Ross Apo, Taylor Woodward, Whitney Wonnacott, Futi Tavana, and so many other outstanding athletes deliver their messages through words and example throughout the day. As they talk about greatness, they demonstrate greatness. For me today, I understand even more what a true hero is, and the power they control. I realize that athletics is not a destination, but an force to elevate people in their individual journeys. I’m grateful that imperfect student athletes today become a little better through serving, that BYU student volunteer group leaders are heroes today, and 1000 6th graders become a little stronger in their resolve to be their best. I realize that we all need heroes, opportunities to draw from positive aspects from others and we struggle to overcome our weaknesses.

Extra Mile

Awards are given to community partners for extra mile efforts in providing safe, meaningful, and available service sites for students.

Students are recognized for choosing to give time to service that otherwise could be used for academics, social pursuits, or jobs.

Faculty and staff are recognized for going beyond the pedagogy of classroom learning, and encouraging students to serve and apply outside the classroom in service learning.

Origin of the phrase “Extra Mile”

The expression “the extra mile” refers to acts of service for others that go beyond what is required or expected. The expression probably comes from the Bible, when Jesus declares in hisSermon on the Mount, “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:41(NASB))

The verse is a reference to the practice of “impressment” which, among other things, allowed a Roman soldier to conscript a Jewish native to carry his equipment for one Roman mile (milion = 1,000 paces, about 1,611 yards or 1,473 metres)[citation needed] — no easy task considering a Roman soldier’s backpack could weigh upwards of 100 pounds (45.4 kg). The editors of the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible have suggested that going the second mile would perhaps spare another from such compulsion.

Under the law, an impressed individual could leave the burden at 1 mile. Jesus taught If a man refused to do this duty for a soldier on demand, he could be arrested and sent to prison. It was a most unpopular law, and people naturally evaded the duty if they possibly could – so Jesus must have startled and shocked his hearers by what he said. It was just the opposite of what they usually did. To have to go one mile with all that load was bad enough, but to go another, of your own accord! That seemed ridiculous.

 

What Jesus was really trying to say was that to accept an obligation cheerfully, and even to go beyond it, is better than doing things under protest and insisting on one’s rights. To act in this way might make even a rough Roman soldier more human; treating people with generosity and forbearance might make friends instead of enemies. This is certainly the way in which Jesus himself acted towards others.

The Fiber of Service

Last week was a monumental marker in my parental progression. My oldest son went on his first date (first one he asked a girl on, I’m not counting the girls choice dance before). As planning started we were going to host him and three of his friends, along with their dates. A small group of 8 would fit nicely in our front room, we could use the nice china dishes, and decorating would be simple. Gradually however, the group grew and grew. Suddenly transportation, food preparation, decorations, pictures, and a large enough venue started to become concerns. Basketball games evolved into mother planning times, hundreds of texts were sent between parents, and I had to show up three hours before the dinner just to set up and decorate. It had become a major event!

Arrival time quickly came, and my younger son was dressed in his nicest suit and stationed at the front doors to greet the young couples. My two youngest daughters were in their best dresses to serve the food, refill glasses, and clear plates. My wife was working with the other mothers to fill plates, prepare food, and keep things running. And I somehow found myself at the sink with my older daughter at my side helping me.

I never do love doing dishes, I don’t like seeing wasted food, I don’t like how it makes my hands feel, and I don’t like how my back aches from bending over the sink. As the endless stream of different sized plates, the plethora of forks, and the lipstick smeared goblets began to bury me, I paused to stop and look around. I realized my son was more worried about conversation topics, using the right manners, and avoiding embarrassing moments. He probably didn’t realize the army of people in the kitchen helping the dinner to go off smoothly. But when I saw my entire family busy and engaged in helping him behind the scenes, I was profoundly moved. Gone were the questions of “who’s turn is it, didn’t I just do this, or how do I get out of this?” For a brief moment, each member of my family was working their hardest in a completely happy and selfless way as part of a unified effort of service.

Marion G. Romney said that “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.” Though we were enduring mundane tasks, serving together created a beautiful tapestry of love and laughter. I reflected back on shoveling snow for a neighbor, weeding a widow’s garden, or other seemingly random acts placed in the path of our family to enjoy together a glimpse of eternity. Certainly this glimpse was also given to remind me to serve more as a family and enjoy more of these glimpses of greatness.