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

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled upon your post again during a Google search for Arrupe's prayer as I intend to share it with my senior girls who are about to go on retreat before they graduate. I love that my search brought me back to the blog of my dear friend with whom I fell in love during our work together in Jesuit education. I know that our paths will cross again soon. Love will decide everything.