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Diversity is the perfect gift
This is the time of year when many people exchange gifts. It happens for various reasons. For some, it is part of their observance of their religion. For others, regardless of the religious aspect, it is a time to share something nice with their friends and family. There are also those for whom it is a time to share their bounty with the less fortunate. Whatever the reason, it is a time of gift giving and rejoicing in the act.
For many, gifts are concrete, tangible items. It could be clothing, toys, games or gift cards. Sometimes, the gifts are less tangible: like a gift of time with a person giving of themselves to someone else or something more practical like offering to wash the car or clean the house. Whatever the approach, rarely are these gifts ill received.
But, sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones, the ones that have come from someone to you for no particular reason other than it was something they wanted to do. They come with no strings attached and the simple act of their giving makes you glad you are the intended recipient.
And, then there are the gifts that you don’t realize are gifts at the time. Usually this is because they are part of your daily living and so are easy to miss during the moment. Many times, one hears about these kinds when people talk about how they have been positively influenced by former teachers, coaches, relatives, friends or others earlier in their lives. It has only been as a result of time going by that one has come to appreciate what has been done for them, something that wasn’t apparent at the time.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to not only receive but to recognize these gifts for what they were. There is one gift that has kept on giving, year after year. It is why I continue to do two jobs: coaching and teaching. The gift is my lacrosse players and my students.
Every year I look forward to seeing the excitement of returning players eager to tackle greater heights. I thrill to see new players ready and open to learning a new sport. Between both groups, it is hard not to get caught up in the energy and enthusiasm that abounds the beginning of another season.
The same is true for each new class each quarter. I see a sea of faces ready to see what I have to offer them. During the short time we have together, I get a sense of what they deem important and what they see for their future. They want to be heard and feel they have something to contribute.
Those attitudes are gifts to me because they keep me young – at heart and in mind. Whether I agree or not with current styles or approaches, at least I have some knowledge of what they are thinking and feeling. While I may not be their equals, either age wise or technologically, at least I know what they are talking about and they keep me abreast of what matters to them.
Even though I know time is passing as my former players become coaches, each team is still about the future and so they keep me forward thinking. The same phenomenon occurs with my classes as I have students go onto careers and re-enter my life in another way.
But, more than anything else, I relish the opportunity to share myself with people younger than I who keep me on my toes. They make me laugh, cry, shout with joy or frustration and more, but I cannot think of a better way to spend my time than with them.
They give me hope for the future. I have seen classes wonder why all our presidents have been white, Christian, males, why there is any type of discrimination at all. Now, at least, one of those descriptors has changed and attitudes toward various minority groups are changing.
I have seen my teams want parity with other sports and have been proud of how they deport themselves when they have not gotten what they wanted. I have seen them be class acts despite being treated inappropriately by other teams and adults
Both my students and my players are really my gifts of life. Theirs is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Val has been called a community activist — or agitator — depending upon one’s view. She contributes her time in the fields of arts, education, human rights, lacrosse, land use, politics and her Jewish community.