Sunday, September 30, 2012

XC Coach Jim Tracy Lifts the Fog

The Greeks never admired the virtue of humility; Jesus certainly did.  He performed miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons while instructing His disciples to "tell no one."  Humility comes from the word “of the earth.”  People who are “down to earth” are often humble people (ah ha connection/moment).  Humility counters pride.  Humanity is limited; we are fragile and we fail.  Humility can often come at a cost. It is one I am willing to bear.

On the final day of the month of September, it seems that summer has finally arrived in San Francisco.  Every year, we bear the burden of the coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent—July and August for the glory of September and October.  This year however, my status report for the first of those two months is: sunny and clear for all of four days.  A friend quipped, "I didn’t know we lived in Russia." 
My misery reached new heights at the Ram Invitational in Daly City on Saturday September 29.  The weather was supposed to improve; my hopes were high.  Instead, I stood in a fog bank for seven hours.  At one point it was so thick, I couldn’t see my runners during their race.  All day, I hoped the fog would break before it broke me.  It would have, had I not seen the head coach of the University High School cross country team.

As I was walking to get results, I saw a man in a fully motorized wheelchair, dressed in coaching regalia sitting under a red tent that read “University High School.” I realized it was Jim Tracy. Two years ago, in my blog posting University High School XC: Proving that Sports are a Real School of True Human Virtue I wrote, “Despite his diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Tracy mustered the strength to lead and oversee practice, as he has always done since 1994."
Many people know the fate of those who have ALS. According to the ALS Association website, “it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed."

I wasn’t expecting to see Coach Tracy still involved with cross country.  I was trying to imagine how different coaching would be when your mobility is so limited. I thought of the effort he and his colleagues make to get on a course that covers hills, trails and crowds of hundreds of people.  I was humbled by his dedication and his love for the sport.

Jim Tracy’s presence and commitment to his runners is inspiring.  I hope and pray his battle against ALS is pain free and filled with God’s grace.  I want him to know he lifted the metaphorical fog for me.  He kick started my Indian Summer, taught me a gentle lesson in humility and made me appreciate this great sport that much more.

Photo Credits

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My First Love....Tennis

The prayer by Pedro Arrupe, SJ featured in My First Love Letter to the 2012 San Francisco Giants is one I see everyday at work.  It serves as the cover image on the textbook / reader for the course that I teach, Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice.  I never gave a whole lot of thought to what students might think of it until I overheard an exchange between two of them.  I was completing my faculty obligation of working in the bookstore when an unsuspecting junior yelled out to his friend, “Hey did you get the Religion book?  Yeah, it’s has that “Falling in Love” image on the front.  Ha!” I was of course unappreciative of his smug attitude, eye roll and flip remark.  But I took a step back and realized this exchange was about to serve as a poignant example.

I’m sure to a 16-year-old male, that image and prayer is overly "touchy--feely."  At first glance it’s hard to take a course seriously that features flowers and a calligraphy message “Fall in Love.”  But this prayer is on the cover for a reason. 

The theme questions of the course are Who Am I?  Who Am I Becoming?  What Does it Mean to Be Fully Human? The heart of the message speaks to the nature of God and of humanity.  It gave me great insight into what it means to be human and into God--who is love.   
I now ask my students: What person doesn’t want to fall in love? I believe we all want to fall in love.  It could be with someone or something—a place in the world, a sports team, an artist, etc. The experience of “Falling in Love” isn’t limited to those lucky in romance.  No, it’s something that we find and that finds us--in the gym or the garden, upon giving birth or breaking a world record.  It can and does change us forever. 
Running with that analogy, I started to think about all that I had fallen in love with in my life.  For most of us, our “first love” has a special significance; it stays with you.  I thought about my first love in sports. That was an easy question to answer.  

Mine was tennis.  At 12 years of age, my father told me that he was signing me up for a tennis day camp near our home.  He remembered and admired the instructor, a former pro.  My dad played tennis in college and loved the game.  He learned on the public courts in Washington State by family friends.  He wanted me to have the wonderful experience he did.

Prior to playing tennis, I had been on a swim team for six years and I played CYO basketball.  I had a lot of fun with both sports, but tennis was different. And I fell in love with it pretty quickly and quite hard.  I babysat to pay my way to attend as many summer camps as I could.  I would ride by bike to the tennis club every evening to play with my hitting partner, Joy.  I subscribed to not one, but two tennis magazines.  I ordered tennis jewelry and had a tennis ball key chain.  I wrote to the NCTA to be a ball girl at professional tournaments in the area.  I had my favorite and least favorite players. Wimbledon was a treasure to watch.

I stopped playing tennis in my early 20s.  My serve frustrated me and I never improved in the way I wanted.  I know now that I had a "fixed mindset".  Yes, a part of me wishes I had never walked away.  First loves are often like that. 

But when I watch tennis matches today, I am taken back to a time and place when my days and dreams were colored by the desire to be on the court.  To this day, I give thanks for the fact that I know some of my closest friends because of tennis.  I still love to watch the game and when I do, I know that my vision and understanding of it is far different than when I watch a sport that I never played or loved—like football.  Falling in love really does change and determine everything.

When God created humanity, God endowed us with many gifts, abilities and experiences.  Falling in love might be the greatest.  Think about all the people, places and even sports you have ever fallen in love with and give thanks to God.

Photo Credits
US Open It Must Be Love
Fan's Love Sharipova

Falling in Love Art is by Holly Campbell

Monday, September 24, 2012

My First Love Letter to the 2012 San Francisco Giants

The 2012 San Francisco Giants proved that the National League West title can’t be bought, it must be won as they clinched a spot into the playoffs with 10 games remaining in the season.  Make no mistake about it, I am thrilled the Giants won.  But in my heart of hearts, it feels different than 2010, when the “Hunt for an Orange October” wasn’t clinched until the final game of the season.  So why is it different?  I, like so many San Francisco Giants fans fell in love with the 2010 World Series Championship team.

Superior General of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) Pedro Arrupe said it best when he wrote "Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way.   What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
That team did all those things.  They seized this city’s imagination.  A friend today, said he wasn’t sure if he was emotionally prepared to give all that a ball club (formerly) known for "torture" demanded of him, of us.  Without a doubt, it affected how I spent my weekends.  For a full month, I got out of bed with a whole lot of zeal. My heart was broken when I was unable to attend the Championship parade (I'm still not over it). None of us would trade those memories for a moment. When you are in love, you give a whole lot--but you feel as though you gain even more.

Staying in love with that motley crew wasn’t exactly an option.  In the world of “rent-a-ballplayer” many were let go (Edgar Reteria, Juan Uribe).  Others retired (Pat the Bat) and still others’ careers ended too soon (Freddie Sanchez).

So I will seek to love these boys of summer in their own way.  After all, this is a team that in no way surrendered when their star player tested positive for PEDs; it could be argued that his departure was the shot in the arm (pun intended) they needed.  This is the team that featured a “PERFECT” June thanks to a starting pitcher that now has a winning record.  This is also a team that uses no fewer than six pitchers in the final two innings of games on a nightly basis.  Indeed, love is never easy.  It requires a sort of surrender, it to be open.  But like grace, it is a total gift. 

Thank you to Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy and the rest of the 2012 squad for the gift of this season.  Perhaps this is my first love letter to you…
Photo Credits
2010 Giants
2012 Giants

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leukemia and Sports Reveal the Spectrum of Life...And the Face of Christ

Twelve tackles by Manti T’eo, the star linebacker for the Fightin’ Irish, helped Notre Dame secure a huge victory over Michigan State in East Lansing. As the clock ran down to the final seconds of the game, T’eo took one knee and looked up at the scoreboard. Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3. In that same moment, he took a deep breath and his eyes welled up with tears. Although no words were said, every fan recognized this was much more than just a game.
Earlier that same week, T’eo’s beloved grandmother and girlfriend died. His girlfriend, all but 22 years of age, lost her battle with leukemia. Losing two women that he truly loved, he turned to his own family and his football family. He needed to be with them. He said, “football allowed me to be in a little realm, a little world where I know I can honor them by the way I play." Football provided respite from his grief for but a few hours. He could channel his energy to create as Mother Teresa said “something beautiful for God.”

Once again, I was reminded of the spectrum of life. I thought about the death of someone old and someone so young; a loss is a loss. And then looking at this strong, able-bodied athlete whose heart and mind came to play a game, I thought of those who cannot because of injury, age or illness. I was reminded of one such young man that day. It was hard not to.

In between coaching girls at a cross-country invitational, a parent of one of my athletes approached me with a flyer in his hand. It featured a familiar smiling face; it asked me to “Be the Match.” 
It reads: Benjamin is 19 years old. He is a San Francisco native and city boy at heart. He studied at St. Ignatius College Preparatory - where he played Varsity Football. He recently came home from his first year of college at the University of Arizona. After several doctors appointments, tests, poking and several weeks of waiting Benjamin was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in August 2012. Ben is the youngest of 4 children and his siblings were unfortunately not a bone marrow match. He is a loving son, brother, uncle, cousin, nephew, grandson, and friend to many. He is Mexican American, and his lifesaving donor will likely come from someone with a similar ethnic heritage.

The parent, Sherman Yee was excited to share that our school community has organized a Bone Marrow drive for Ben on October 26. He informed me St. Ignatius College Prep has run off over 1,000 copies to spread the word. I was moved by his conviction of hope; every person that gets registered not only increases the odds that Ben will live, but that someone else will too.
I was holding back my tears not because of the fact that Ben has already been through two rounds of chemotherapy or that he has this cross to bear. Ben is a lover and a fighter. No, something deep inside my heart was moved; once again I saw the face of Christ.

The obvious example is the face on the flyer. It features Ben as we know him. His smile is pure and true. Whether he knows it or not, he is a sacrament. People from the SI community and beyond have been moved by his story to donate to the National Marrow Donor Program in any way they can.

But the Christ that met me amidst the busyness of coaching 70 girls at an invitational with close to 1000 runners, was in the face of this parent, Sherman Yee. It is one gift to make a flyer. It’s another to pin it up. But it’s an entirely different matter to go around to hundreds of people at the cross-country invitational, give them one to keep while telling them Ben’s story. Sherman Yee doesn’t see his actions as being a big deal; it’s second nature for him. But I couldn’t have done that. I would have left the flyer on a table and hope people might read it.

Jesus is God made flesh. He is the incarnation. He became one of us because we all need a little of that human touch (thank you Mr. Springsteen). He can be seen in the football player who makes tackles to honor his beloved. He can be seen in a young man fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia. And he is revealed in a person doing what they are naturally good at—talking to people and rallying behind a cause.

I’m not sure why He continues to show me His face in unsuspecting people and in unlikely places, but He does. I suppose like Manti or Sherman I can only do what I know to do—tell you about it through the written word. It is my way to honor Him.

Photo Credits
Bone Marrow Donation
Manti #5
Manti Standing Tall
Rembrandt Face of Christ

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11: Baseball and "Victim 0001" as Sacraments

What is a sacrament?  A visible sign of an invisible grace.  Many Catholics may answer this question by naming one of the seven Sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation, etc.  These formal sacraments (designated by a capital “S”) are ways “Christ now acts to communicate his grace. The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition 1084) In light of today, 9/11, I would like to recognize Fr. Mychal Judge and baseball—America’s pastime—as true sacraments (lowercase “S").

I began my classes today in the same way that I always do, with prayer.  Only today’s prayer also served as an introduction for all but one of my students to Mychal Judge, OFM.  I read an excerpt from “Friar Jack’s E-spiration” about the man who has been designated “Victim 0001;” a man I view as a sacrament.

Jack Wintz, OFM writes
Father Mychal worked with homeless people and AIDS patients. A recovering alcoholic, he also devoted much time to recovering addicts. The role for which he is best remembered is chaplain to the New York City Fire Department.

On September 11, 2001, Father Mychal rushed from his friary at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street to the scene of the World Trade Center attacks. He was just doing his job.

After anointing a firefighter, Father Mychal was hit by falling debris and killed. He was 68 years old. He became the first officially recorded fatality following the attack. Many of us have likely seen the iconic photo of him being carried away from the rubble by several fire fighters and others. (There’s a Waterford Crystal sculpture of this image mounted outside the firehouse were he worked across from his friary on 31st Street.)
I asked my students to pray with that photo.  Many consider it to a modern day “pieta.” Michaelangelo’s Pieta depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.
How was Father Mychal and other "first-responders" Christ-like?  What is their message for us today?

We concluded our prayer with Fr. Mychal’s favorite.  His brothers say that the prayer characterized his approach to all he did.

Lord, take me where you want me to go;
let me meet who you want me to meet;
tell me what you want me to say;
and keep me out of your way.

Was his life a visible sign of an invisible grace?  I think so.

For baseball purists, thinking about baseball as a sacrament is easy.  For those that question the connection between Sports and Spirituality, however, putting such power in a simple game may be more than a stretch.  Is it sacrilegious?  I believe the HBO video Nine Innings From Ground Zero answers that question. 

For the Amazon review, Tom Keogh writes
In the days following terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, sports might have seemed trivial and irrelevant. But Nine Innings from Ground Zero demonstrates how New Yorkers, in fact, embraced baseball with a cathartic passion, turning Yankees and Mets games into spontaneous rituals of grief and showcases for resilience and the restoration of normalcy. Off the field, both teams found a way to comfort the city to the extent they could, visiting firefighters and relatives of the dead; the Yankees' Derek Jeter personally reached out to the young daughter of one of the pilots killed by hijackers. The Yankees' ride to the World Series that year is covered extensively here, and the team's up-and-down dramas playing against Phoenix coincide with such off-field horrors as an anthrax scare and more warnings of terrorism. Outstanding game footage and interwoven analysis of baseball action and real-world events make Nine Innings unique. 
Baseball became communal gathering places.  The physical act of going to a game was cathartic for those who mourned.  For example, one man named Kieran lost not one but his two brothers.  Although he went to Game 5 of the World Series alone, he said just to “step into Yankee Stadium was a connection to my brothers that I had been missing so badly.” 

President Bush was told two things.
1. Throw from the mound
2. Throw a strike.
He did both.
Baseball provided a venue where people were free to forget their sadness for a few hours; others found a place to express their hope and fears.  Even the President took a great risk in showing up for the first World Series game in the Bronx.  Replete in a bulletproof vest and with a secret service agent dressed as an umpire, George W. Bush did everything in his power to throw a strike, from the mound.  He did.  This small gesture, albeit an important tradition, said: “we will not surrender our freedom.”

Profiles of crazy fans, selfless firefighters, ballplayers like Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius, to a real “Guardian Angel” help us understand how we survived this incredibly tragic era.  Mayor Giuliani concedes “the only two things that got my mind off of it for any period of time in the Fall of 2011, were baseball and my son’s football games.” In one press conference, he said, “There is one thing that I’ve been really missing, and I’m going to break down tonight.  I’m going to a Met game.”  Baseball with its ritual and tradition, its beauty and its grace was a balm for many.  It helped many more people than just New Yorkers cope and mourn.  It helped America.

The Yankees did not win the 2011 World Series.  But the road to it and all seven games of the World Series with its highs and lows, memories and music helped me understand what a sacrament does—it causes what it signifies.  Community, remembrance, celebration, and thanksgiving.  TODAY is the day for just that.

You can watch an excerpt at

Photo Credits

President Bush throws a "K"
Baseball stadium
Nine Innings From Ground Zero
Modern Day Pieta
Guardian Angel
Special Thanks to my producer/director Sean Lawhon for sharing "Nine Innings..." with me

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Real "Notre Dame Brand"

When is the last time you saw the face of Christ? This is a question I have been asking myself everyday in the month of September.  It’s a great question, a powerful one, and an invitational one.  In some ways, I think it is THE question.  I also think the question relates, believe it or not, to the “The Notre Dame brand.” 
Every night before I fall asleep, I read from a daily missal “Living With Christ.”  The back page invites readers to “Use our cover for prayer and reflection.”  It features “The Face of Christ” one of the oldest mosaics in Church history.  This month in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples “Who Do You Say That I Am?”  The reader is guided to consider two questions while sitting with this image of Jesus.  
  • How do I answer Jesus question?
  • How does my answer affect how I live?
My answer to that question however has been another question.  It is: When is the last time you saw the face of Christ?
I was reminded of this question thanks to an article in the Summer 2012 issue of Notre Dame Magazine.  I read the story Matt Swinton’s declaration of independence and came to learn the 2012 graduate was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy as a baby and given a year to live.  He lived and he excelled in school, so much that he was accepted at a number of top-ranked universities. One of those schools was Notre Dame. Grisoli writes,
Spinal muscular atrophy affects the voluntary muscles, leaving Matt extraordinarily weak. While he can use his hands, he cannot raise his arms; he cannot roll over so must be turned periodically. Because respiratory muscles are also voluntary, Matt cannot take a full breath, cough or clear his lungs — so any infection becomes life-threatening. South Bend didn’t seem like the place for him, because cold weather is extraordinarily taxing on his muscles, given his condition.

But Matt loved Notre Dame, where he had attended some football games. And he wasn’t the only one who persuaded his parents. “Notre Dame did the majority of the convincing,” he says. Before he even wheeled onto campus, the University architect’s office had devised a plan to renovate a dorm room to meet his needs.

Roommates were one of the aspects of college Matt wanted most. Stand-up comedy is his hobby, and he needed people to critique his jokes. Other schools had offered single rooms and couldn’t promise the same residence hall each year. But just off the second-floor lounge of O’Neill Hall, architects created a suite of rooms that connects to a private bath. Matt had one bedroom for himself; his two roommates shared the other. Instant community.

After Matt arrived on campus, the health attendants hired to assist him proved unreliable. Overruling his parents’ concerns, he convinced them the students he’d met at Notre Dame were far more capable than the professionals. He circulated an ad in the dorm, and 11 students in O’Neill stepped up that day. So for the past four years, several young men have helped Matt with every daily task imaginable — washing, dressing, compassionately carrying him from wheelchair to sofa to bed. Every night, including weekends, they took turns sleeping on the cot beside his bed and waking four to five times to turn him to keep him comfortable and prevent pressure sores.

Members of this humble group have become Matt’s dearest friends. Interviewing them one day, I thought of a priest who once asked me, “When is the last time you saw the face of Christ?” In my head I was shouting, “Right now! Right now!”
I read what those young men in O’Neill did for Matt and my eyes started to pool.  When I read Grisoli’s response, I burst into tears, a royal floodgate.  She was right, the community that Matt sought after in Notre Dame became Christ for each other.  I have no doubt that if you asked them the same question, they would say “everyday.”  Their friend Matt, who by society’s standards is incapable of so little has given them so much.  His weakness has afforded them greatness—the opportunity to be Christ for one another.

I shared this story with my students and their parents at Back to School Night because it provides insight and examples into the central questions of the course I teach.  Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice asks:
  • Who Am I?
  • Who Am I Becoming?  What Kind of Person Do I Want to Become?
  • What Kind of Society Do I live in?  What kind of Society Do I want to live in?
  • What does it mean to be fully human?
Furthermore, the study of ethics is a query into What should I do? What ought I do? and How does Christ make a difference to the good?
I believe that my students would like to respond as those in O’Neill have.  While many have, others have been Matt.  They too want independence.  They too need help, but are afraid to ask.  Matt Swinton’s story shows us the reward of asking for help.  We can become Christ to the other.  We can also help others see Christ in themselves. 

Often, we do not know what we can or would do unless put into a position.  The goal is to get to a place where one sees doing the “good” as more than just optional or obligatory.  Ideally, it is invitational.  I would like to believe that Notre Dame invites its students to become a community.  And my sense is this community invites its members to “the good,” and does so often.  Matt Swinton’s story is one case in point.  His parents had significant reservations and yet “Notre Dame did the majority of the convincing.” They community did "the good."  I am glad they did.
Head football coach Brian Kelly has recently used the term “Notre Dame’s brand” which has sent alumni and the Irish faithful into bipartisan camps.  You have those who are for the “21st century marketing” and those who want the 125 years of tradition to remain pure.  They abhor the split-colored dark blue-and-gold helmet, aerodynamic uniform and the thought of a Jumbotron video screen.  Artificial turn inside Notre Dame stadium is the equivalent of football’s gravesite.  The other camp recognizes a few changes have been made over the years—the growth of the stadium for one or the schizophrenia of green and gold to blue and gold and back.  A few changes may be a welcome thing.

Regardless, of your viewpoint, I believe the real “Notre Dame brand” is something that can’t even be branded.  Even the “What would you fight for?” commercials don’t come close.  The “brand” is the spirit of Notre Dame.  It is the time and talent of this community on the football field and in O’Neill Hall.  It is something that allows its students to see Christ in one another and be Christ for one another. Don’t you dare market it. Live it. Be it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Life Lessons from Noisy Students and Outstanding Athletes

Every teacher knows no class is the same.  Coaches will testify to the same truth—no team has the same chemistry, personality, give and take. 
Three years ago I taught Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice to a boisterous group of young men and women who simply put, rocked my world.  This first period class of 30 juniors came into class ready to discuss any and everything, every single day.  They were never quiet and I hated them for it.

I like a fair bit of order and control, respect and discipline.  That school year we had a significant number of tech problems and any lesson plan I had that involved using the Internet failed.  I would stand in frustration at my computer and attempt to fix the problem; I would switch from wireless to the standard network, I restarted my computer, I logged off and back on.  No luck.

Most students sit quietly and wait respectively for the lesson to continue.  Not this class.  I knew I was supposed to love them for their enthusiasm but I was often frustrated with their volume.  I was once informed at a teacher in-service “the one doing the talking is learning.”  I considered this a valuable insight, except when it came to this group of students. They sought any break whatsoever as an opportunity to socialize, laugh, discuss the class material, congratulate their classmates, sing “Happy Birthday!” you name it.  It didn’t matter if it was 8:30 a.m. on Monday or the day after we lost the to our rival in the Bruce Mahoney game, this class was talking.  Tech be damned! 

One day in the most unexpected way, they won me over.  The bell rang indicating that class way over.  The song “These Words” by Natasha Bettingfield came on the school PA and one of my students, Kevin Barker who recognized that he had the God-given talent to make people smile, started to dance.  He busted a move and instantly another 10 kids joined him.  Kevin did what he’s good at…and I smiled. I laughed and I let go.  Their energy and enthusiasm, their noise and their laughter were no longer the enemy.  It was a gift.

I have stayed in touch with a number of these students.  It’s important to recognize that students and athletes stay with you in ways they will never know; many change your life.  I feel so blessed to have stayed in touch with a number of them.

In fact two students from that illustrious group spoke recently in my Sports & Spirituality class about their experience as student athletes at St. Ignatius and now in college.  Rachel Hinds a four-year varsity member of the lacrosse and cross-country team now plays lacrosse at Stanford University.  Her classmate, Johnny Mrlik plays both basketball and baseball at Vassar College.

Rachel addressed how sports teach you about failure.  In life, things will not always go our way.  Learning from failure and even how one will react to it are important life lessons.  She appreciates the way that sports can bring people together, a community of support makes all the difference. 

Johnny added that he misses saying the Prayer of St. Ignatius with his teammates.  He now recognizes prayer was an effective way to center before a game.  Johnny added that you do not get to choose your teammates.  It is always important to learn how to work with people, especially when you have a common goal. 

I said goodbye to Rachel and Johnny and thought, “I am so proud of the people they are becoming.”  I think they are too.  Their promise and potential that was evident in high school is beginning to unfold now in college.  This is not something to take for granted.  Later that same day, I came home to discover that a young man in that very same class, Ben Aguilar has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and started undergoing chemotherapy this week.   I read an e-mail from our principal that states the following.

This is a very serious form of leukemia and his doctors believe he will need a bone marrow transplant to achieve a full cure.
Unfortunately neither of Ben's sisters are good bone marrow matches so the the Aguilar family is urging everyone they know between the ages of 18-60 to get tested to be a bone marrow donor.  Even if you don't match Ben it could always help someone else out.  It is as simple as logging into and signing up for a test kit.  (I completed the free registration in about 10 minutes.)  You can also put in your zip code and find the nearest bone marrow drive in your area.

Ben is at Kaiser in San Francisco getting his initial treatment and is in good spirits.  If a donor is found he will get the transplant at Stanford in the upcoming months.  The sooner we find a donor the better! 

I can still see Ben in his shirt, tie and SI jacket on game day.  He loves football.  He was tremendously respectful and kind.  He too was a contributor to the volume of that class.  He was more of a listener than a talker, but he very well may have been one of the students dancing in class. He has the promise and potential to stay strong but he needs people to come together, he needs a community of support, he needs our prayers for his health and for a worthy donor.  The words of the Prayer of St. Ignatius have never been more fitting.  Lord, teach me to be generous.

I was struck by the spectrum of life.  In just one day three students from the same class touched my heart.  I hope their experiences at St. Ignatius, in their ethics class and from athletics prepare them for the best of the life and the most challenging.

Please consider our principal, Mr. Patrick Ruff’s request. 

Photo Credits