Monday, May 19, 2014

Gone But Not Forgotten: Tiggs et al

I have taught Foundations of Ethics: Morality and Justice each of the 11 years I have been at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco. My 4th-period class has asked me since November if they are my all time favorite group. Being that tomorrow is our final class, it's time that I confirm what they already know: they are among the very best. 
Best way to start and end class....Corn hole

Yes, they have worked hard this year, but they have laughed and cried harder—much harder than any group I can remember. Their ability to listen thoughtfully yielded kinship and a loving respect for one another. They have shared their talents unselfishly. From our Valentine's Day prank to on-going games of Corn hole long after the bell has rung, we have had more fun than any religion class has a right to have. Their presence leads me to say one prayer: "Thanks." But I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am for the prayers we have shared together—in silence and out loud.

When my former student Brendan Tiggs died in February, I told all of my classes about the petitions he once said. On a near daily basis, Tiggs would pray for "anyone who might be having a tough time." I asked my students to continue this prayer. In the wake of our grief, many students honored Tiggs through this petition. As time has passed, however our prayers changed. Naturally, we took on new concerns—but not in my 4th period. If one of Tiggs' former teammates didn't offer that prayer, another student gave voice to it every day. Wow.

It can be difficult for some groups of students to feel comfortable sharing their prayers out loud. I understand. Even with my colleagues in the Religious Studied department I am often reluctant to speak up or expose my needs, desires, concerns and more in prayer. But not this group. Sharing is natural and supported, it is encouraged and understood. It is holy. And those intentions begin each day with the same intention: for the Tiggs family.

The young man who says this prayer says it for good reason. He told me "I've been blessed for the past two years in sharing the number 74 in football with Tiggs. And now I realized how blessed I am to have that and I feel like that will always connect me with him." A common number, a common prayer—it doesn't take much to stay connected to those we love.
A picture is worth more than 1000 words.
And so it was with a heavy heart but a warm smile that I came across a photo of Brendan Tiggs on this second to last day of class. Last April, our community welcomed NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and SI Alum, Dan Fouts back to his alma mater. Presented with an award from All-State, my hope was that we caught a snapshot of him next to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame plaque that stands outside of McCullough gymnasium (for an article I am writing in Genesis). No such luck. I did, however, find a picture I had never seen before of Tiggs. To me, it captured exactly who he was and why we love him.

Here he stands, in his J-Rich Warriors jersey, besides his teammates and friends. Wearing a joyful smile on his face, I know that Tiggs gave Fouts an honorable handshake and welcome. It's bittersweet. 
One of many legacies at SI.
Brendan Tiggs left a legacy—one that this group has carried on. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to the 27 juniors, but hope to remember them with the class photo we will take out on the piazza. They made me laugh today when someone asked: "should we wear the same thing?" They too have created a legacy of their own; I am grateful for all we have learned and shared. 

Whoever said "those who can't—teach" had it entirely wrong. My students have been some of my greatest teachers and as far as I'm concerned what they can do is humbling and inspiring. They love, laugh, pray and give the best of what they got—themselves. juniors...Thanks ...Wow.
What an awesome group...

Photo Credits: Thank you, Paul Totah!

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