Collaboration, Not Competition

The Rio Olympic Games officially ended a few days ago. For about 17 days the nations of the world came together to celebrate our common humanity and for a brief period set aside their differences and even their hatreds and wars. Traditional enemies competed with each other in true sportsmanship trying to submit to the well-known dictum, “Let the best man (woman) win!” It was refreshing and even inspiring to see the various races and cultures of the world represented in the Maracana at the opening and the closing ceremonies. Dire predictions by prophets of doom that these Olympics would be a disaster never came to pass. Thankfully no acts of terrorism or violence were inflicted on the athletes or the spectators.

During the Games, we witnessed sparks of brilliance as Usain Bolt dominated as the fastest man and Michael Phelps emerged as the gold-medal-winning legend. We saw to what limits humans can push themselves to live out the Olympic motto: “Higher, Stronger, Faster!” They displayed the elegance of the human form in gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and in diving. They dazzled us with their team spirit when they competed with each other in soccer, volleyball and basketball. The colorful images of the opening and closing ceremonies still linger in our minds and all of us got misty-eyed as athletes from over two hundred nations shook hands and took selfies.

For all the glamour and glory of the Games, no image captivated our imagination and emotion more than that iconic picture of the American long-distance runner, Abby D’Agostino, lending a hand to Nikki Hamblin, a fallen New Zealand athlete. Even though D’Agostino herself was hurt – she had torn her ACL in the fall – she helped her fellow competitor on her feet. These two women inspired each other to complete the race notwithstanding the fact that neither of them would win a medal. In the process they touched the hearts of millions across the globe. They taught us once again what the Olympic spirit is all about.

As I watched that scene, I could not but remember the words of Grantland Rice who wrote: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game.” These two female athletes demonstrated to us how we should play the game. In the heart of that international arena where healthy competition reigns supreme, they chose collaboration over competition. While doing that, they have taught us a lesson that our world and our nation sorely need. We need more collaboration, not competition.

The word, “collaborate” is made up of two words: “co” and “labor.” As we all know, it basically means “to work together.” Just one look at our nation and at our world will convince us that we really need to work together. Instead, our society and culture constantly push us to look at others as our rivals and competition. Young girls and women are pressured to compare themselves to air-brushed fashion models. The media and the market try to convince us that success is all about having more than the Joneses. This spirit of competition and rivalry has brought about so much negativity and unhappiness into our lives.

Over the last few days our children and young people have returned to their schools and universities. We have begun another academic year. I would like to propose to all of us this one challenge – to cultivate a spirit of collaboration in our personal, community and family lives. We need to collaborate, not compete. We need to collaborate because we belong to the same family of God. We are His children. We need to collaborate because we have the same goals – to build up God’s Kingdom here on earth. We need to collaborate because only collaboration can bring about our happiness and life satisfaction.

If we are committed to collaboration, there is no place for bullying in our school or parish. No matter where we are, we must treat everyone with kindness and respect. My heart breaks when I hear that some young person was rejected and made to feel unwanted. I am upset when cyber-bullying or other types of bullying force a student to leave a school or a team. In God’s eyes each one of us is precious and profoundly lovable. None of us has a right to tell someone that they are worthless or unlovable. Such a hurt inflicted on another is a hurt inflicted on the Lord Himself. I hope parents will teach their children this important lesson. I worry about a young person who bullies others because he/she will grow into adulthood without friends and unloved.

A couple of weeks ago I returned from a short visit to Switzerland. I was there to co-celebrate the wedding of a dear friend, who is like family to me. I certainly enjoyed being in a beautiful country that works like a Swiss-watch. However, I enjoyed far more meeting people from different parts of the world – Italians, Germans, Swiss, French, and Dutch. Being part of that wedding which was celebrated in three languages, I felt one with humanity. We are one. We need to work as one. That is what God, our Father, wants us to do. Let us say “Yes” to collaboration and “No” to rivalry.

Please say a prayer that this new school year will be peaceful, joyful and grace-filled!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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