“Aw man… don’t call a time out. Coach, are you a moron?” This one sentence, shouted from the stands at my son’s football game last weekend froze me. I was suddenly ill at my core. We were down 22-0, but I couldn’t believe it. Were the fans actually attacking our coach during the game? Who said that, I wondered and looked back into the crowd. I couldn’t tell. Then I heard a woman’s voice. “Hey Mike? Zip it.” Some titters from the crowd, but Mike remained silent. Perhaps it was his wife, perhaps a friend. I’ll never know who it was, but I know I was grateful that someone stood up and stopped the man in his tracks.
I work at a Christian school, but we have students from every faith, from Muslim to Buddhist, Jewish to Christian, atheists, agnostics, and plenty that are unsure. Every week we have chapel, and it is an exercise in respect. No one is required to participate, but everyone is required to be respectful. We sit and stand together, no cell phones, no talking, no reading, no sleeping. We hope the lessons will strike a chord with all in our community, regardless of faith. Our core values include helping all move forward on a spiritual journey.
Our middle school students generally attend chapel at a different time than our high schoolers and the rare joint chapel is usually a formal event for Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, or other important days in our calendar. I have been attending high school chapel for years and it is a very quiet service. I can hear students reciting the prayers, but they rarely sing. It is an interesting phenomenon for me, as the music in church is always my favorite part. Having students shun it so completely has always made me sad.
Last week, due to some schedule changes, we celebrated a regular chapel with the whole community for the first time in a long time. Imagine my surprise when as the first hymn began, our middle school students began clapping. The music is generally contemporary in these less formal chapels and the middle schoolers sang enthusiastically. There were hand motions that went with the song! They were enjoying the music and having fun. The high schoolers looked on. Some were smirking. A few joined in. Most remained silent and over time our young ones lost some enthusiasm. The big kids, their role models, didn’t sing in chapel. I could almost hear the wheels turning.
So what do I take away from these two very different events? I think there are a lot of good lessons here, and I would love to discuss them in the comments. But let me pick one to kick off this discussion. What if everything we do matters? What if a rude shout from the crowd could demoralize a team? What if four words from a bystander could stop a heckler? What if the determined solidarity of a middle school choir could bond a community? What if the whispered mockery of a few could crumble a child’s fragile faith? I work with our youth, our future, every single day. Does everything we do matter? And if so, how do we deal with the enormity of this responsibility?