Sports have the potential to develop a positive human spirit in our youth. They prepare them for the joys and sorrows, the victories and defeats, and the successes and failures that life will offer them as adults. These human experiences are what make us unique amongst God's earthly creatures.
With the above in mind, allow me to retell by memory a story I read many, many years ago inspired, I believe, by Michel Nigel.
The Angel and the Four Seekers
One Christmas morning a heavenly angel was looking down on earth and was awed by its beauty. Without God's permission, this angel decides to visit earth to get a closer look at God's creation. The angel spent several hours enjoying the splendor of its snow-covered mountains, the brilliant colors of its animal and plant life, and the glistening blue waters of the oceans.
But what most intrigued the angel is humankind, and the many emotions they are confronted with in their lives. The angel witnessed the many aspects of human nature, the good and the evil. The angel felt nothing but love (and a tinge of envy) for these children of God, who faced the hardships of mortal living with dignity and tenacity.
While walking down one well-traveled path, the angel met four seekers who all had dreams. Although over-stepping his bounds, the angel felt compassion for those men and decided to grant each of them one wish.
The angel told the seekers who it was and that it wanted to help them on their individual journeys toward truth by granting each one his greatest desire. With a glowing joy in his countenance, the angel asked the first seeker what he desired the most.
"I want to have total purity of thought, and not be tempted by human desires that often cause turmoil and strife." The angel was disturbed by his request and retorted, "Are you sure?" "Yes, that's what I want!" As the angel granted his wish, the first seeker disappeared and a marble likeness of him appeared on a nearby mountain. Only a statue is pure of thought.
A bit disturbed by the first seeker's desire, the angel asked the second seeker what he wanted most for himself. The seeker responded, "I want to have complete peace of mind, with no worries to distract my quest for truth." "Is that what you want?" replied the angel, a bit disappointed. "Absolutely!" At that very moment, the second seeker was transformed into a cow. Only a cow chewing his cud in a field is totally content in this world.
The angel began to lose his celestial radiance as he asked the third seeker what he desired most in life. The seeker quickly replied, "I want to be perfect. With perfection, I will be free of human error that affects all mankind." Deeply saddened, the angel granted his request. Instantly, the third seeker disappeared, for nothing on earth is perfect.
Distressed by the wishes of the first three seekers, the angel reluctantly asked the fourth seeker to express his ultimate desire. "Nothing," said the fourth seeker. Nothing, but to totally experience all the delights and trials of being human. Very pleased with the request, the angel hugged the fourth seeker as he jubilantly granted the final seeker's desire to be completely human.
That afternoon, as the angel returned to heaven, it received an undignified swift kick on the derriere that drove it, face down, against the golden pathway.
"You messed with the works, today, without my permission," God admonished the angel. "Yes I did, Heavenly Father, but I gave each of them what they asked for and justly deserved." "That, you did," said God as He then granted the angel what it longed for after tampering with the works.
That very moment on earth, in a humble farmhouse, a child was born. His father, the fourth seeker, looked down upon his son and wife with joy in his eyes.
Yes, as mortal beings, we must realize "the struggle is the glory." Athletics can start us in that direction. When we learn to accept the struggle - the winning and the losing -- only then do we realize the glory (and the gift) of being human.