unexpected gratitude

(Mostly written on June 28.)

This morning I heard the news that Pat Summitt had died. When I went to work I kept on thinking about her, about the fact that I don’t know much about her and yet I feel as if I know a whole lot. In fact, I feel as if I know so much that to not honor her life in some way shape or form just wouldn’t be right.

So I clipped a few orange day lilies from the garden outside of Advent House and walked over to the large bronze statue that stands in Pat Summitt’s honor at the corner of Lake Loudoun Boulevard and Phillip Fulmer Way. I had no other plans but to place them by the statue assuming that by the time I got there, there would be scores of other similar tributes already in place. As is typical for me, I lost a clear sense of where I was (after walking a student to class) and ended up taking a less scenic route to my destination. And I was very surprised when I looked up and saw that it wasn’t yet flooded. In fact, there was ample space for so much more. Certainly, if this were the middle of the regular school year, displays of love would probably be tenfold by that time.

All I could think of once I got close to the statue was, “put down the lilies and keep on walking.” And that’s what I did. I didn’t want to linger because I didn’t know her personally. Perhaps it was that I’ve never been to one of her games. Perhaps it was that I can’t even say I’m a basketball fan. So I wanted to hurry off. Yet I felt this incredible connection. To be more precise, I felt a deep sense of gratitude. Even though I didn’t know her, I walked away very emotionally processing how much her work, her life has inevitably impacted my own. How the determination in her bones has allowed others to receive the determination in mine. I was surprised by my reaction but only for a second.

When you’ve experienced enough ups and downs, wrestled through enough conflict, had several tough conversations, know for a fact that some of the people you minister to would prefer a man, have been told, “I don’t usually like women preachers but…”…when this is part of your story and yet you’ve got tons of support, many people not simply cheering you on but mentoring you, standing in the gaps…and when you see the skeptics shift…you know that the Pat Summitts of the world, the women who’ve worked hard and well in spheres that weren’t always open to them, you know you didn’t get to where you are on your own merit, alone.

When you consistently do things well, people have to pay attention. And inevitably, you lay a firmer foundation on which others can not only do the things you do but excel in their own spheres. But it’s not about striving for excellence in the form of no mistakes ever. Rather, I’m slowly learning that it’s more about high (attainable) standards, solid relationships, and a ton of grace for myself and everyone I meet.

Thank you, Coach!

 

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