Vanguard College Prep is a high school in Waco, Texas known for its high academic standards. Thanks to a story picked up by CBS’s “On the Road,” they are now known for outstanding sportsmanship. It began when they were scheduled to play a team from Gainesville, Texas. That team happened to be composed of players who are confined in a teenage correctional institution.
Whenever the team from Gainesville played, they obviously did not take a student cheering section with them. Sometimes a few parents went along, but they usually were prevented by money problems from accompanying their children. So Gainesville got used to playing before an empty cheering section. Two students from Vanguard thought that was unfair.
These two students asked friends if they would do something to remedy the situation. They began to make banners, recruit cheerleaders, and enlist people to act as stand-in rooters for Gainesville. When the visitors, who knew nothing of what was happening, came onto the court, they saw a whole side of the gym festooned with their colors and banners complete with rabid fans. By the time the night was over, the whole gym was rooting for Gainesville.
When some of the players from Gainesville were interviewed after the game, they could hardly speak because of their emotion. One young man said that he would remember that night when he was an old, old man. Another said that no one had ever done anything like that for him before. It is easy sometimes to get lost in the crassness that can be American sports but sports can be ennobling, too.
We are entering into the Lenten season. It is traditional to give something up for Lent if you are a Christian. Perhaps we should give up our lack of imagination and find unique ways to reach out and touch others just as the students and parents of Vanguard Prep did. Too often we simply accept things as they are. We never put ourselves in the position of the “other.”
And yet, when you stop and think about it, are we not all the “other” at some point? We are the one chosen last in P.E.; we are the one not asked to the prom; we are the one who dresses funny; we are the one with the wrong color skin; we are the one from the wrong side of the border. Or, perhaps most relevant of all, we are the one who is doomed without the love and grace of Christ. If Christ can love us, can’t we take the time to love the other?