Let me set the scene. In a sea of red and black Paul and I are the only two people wearing blue and white in support of the Ryerson Rams soccer team. At the invitation of the captain, Kyle, who I’ve known since he was in prep school, we had come to cheer on his team while they were playing in our neck of the woods.
A few scattered in front and behind us in the bleachers, the Raven spectators numbered about a hundred people with most of them sitting to our right. They started out very quietly, not even a clap as their team very smartly came onto the field, but as the game progressed they got progressively louder. No booze involved here, just good old beating of the chops for the home team. Until Teri went down.
Teri, a Ravens player, was familiar to us because his family was sitting a few rows below us. The youngest children of the clan had been calling to him earlier until he responded with a wave. And a really great goal by Teri had brought the family to its feet. Now he was writhing in pain on the ground. He was not the first in the game to be hurt. Numerous players on both sides had fallen, look injured, and then gotten up and continued the game. The Raven spectators had had a lot to say about any Rams player who went down. And soccer players are notorious for being dramatic in order to get the opposing team penalized. But when Teri went down and Paul commented to me with a smile, “he’s probably faking” the reaction from the lady down front was instant and confrontational.
This mother/aunt/sister whipped around to the two of us to say that, “Teri is not faking! It is the Rams team that is playing dirty!” She was loud, defensive, and clearly upset. Our first instinct was to shrug it off but when we saw how upset she was Paul apologized. A few minutes later while talking to another family member, she loudly said, “he said he was faking!” Her tone was decidedly uncomplimentary but the family member brushed it off and nothing more was said.
The whole thing bothered me though and has been percolating in my brain ever since. It really brought home to me how quickly situations can escalate. Had Paul or I been aggressive there’s no telling what may have happened. And really, in hindsight, I bet that lady was more worried about Teri’s welfare but took her fears out on us. Certainly when Kyle and a Ravens player collided sometime later - a collision we could hear - it was sickening. We held our breath and watched as the two players slowly got to their feet, and back in the game.
This incident, a small inconsequential little thing, is where we hone our skills for loving with conviction – keeping a firmly held belief that beneath the façade each and everyone is loving. They won’t always show it, ah truly, the negative comes out far, far more often in reality. But we work on ourselves, work on seeing beneath the negative to bring more love, and thus more peace, into our lives and the world at large. I think of Mahatma Gandhi who was relentless in his pursuit for personal discipline and in the long run brought about great change for India.
In general, people who hate, hate with conviction. They back up their conviction with violent action. We need to counter it, even in the smallest of ways, by loving with conviction in all situations. Obviously, if you are in mortal danger you do what is necessary to survive. But too often in our daily living we tend toward the hate/anger/negativity, pushing love and peace further away. Can you spend a little time each day showering love (even if you do it silently) to the ones who irritate you the most? It won’t be easy. Within you, however, love and peace will grow stronger and that, I promise, you will feel.
Up for the challenge?