Love on a Mission

I’ve learned a multitude of lessons ever since starting my own sports ministry to reach out to the poor and marginalized communities of the world, many of which I’ll eventually share later down the road when the time seems right. I’ve learned a lot about other cultures and their people.  I’ve grown immensely as a person, but most importantly, I’ve sought refuge in my faith through some of the darkest times, fully placing my trust in God. I’ve seen firsthand how a concept as simple as sport can bridge the barriers created by language, race, gender, religion, and even socioeconomic status. Sure, I’ve seen the universality behind soccer, but that cannot even compare to what I’ve seen and what I’ve felt through the universal language of love.

Now if there’s just one lesson I can share today, it’s this: love is always around us and love is always at work – just as God is. And others might not agree, but I’ve always held that to be true, no matter what. But, I still have days where I fail to remember this truth or perhaps struggle to see it (for reasons which I’ll expound on below.)

I’ll admit – when you’re in constant interaction with populations who have experienced extreme hardship and neglect in their young lives, it’s inevitable that there will be days where the work comes home with you. I think it’s natural, too. I mean, letting certain emotions run their course is just as important, but those emotions do present a thin line that I find myself tip-toeing every single day. There are days where I find myself taking on burdens that aren’t necessarily mine to bear and, to tell you the truth, that scares me.

You see, there are so very few universals in this world, that when you see one… you immediately take note of it. For me, those universals are pain and love. We all possess our own capacity for feeling each of the two, but at the end of the day, we do all feel them in some way, shape, or form. I have days where the pain is just too strong to handle, but then again, I think we all do. But it is on those days where I question if one day I might just crumble under the weight of all this. And then, when I take on those burdens from the lives of the children I work with, that pain just multiplies. Why do I do that, though? I know very well it might kill me someday, so why do I continue to take on their pain as my own?

The answer to that is simple: it’s because of love.

I love others, because I have known love all of my life. I am able to love others because I have been loved. It’s the same love that a mother or father gives to a child. It’s the same unconditional love that God has for all of his children. Whenever the pain I feel becomes too strong, I remember this love and with that, I am able to find solace. Because it’s true – there’s too much pain in this line of work. But every ounce of that pain is worth the love that comes on the other side of it. Sometimes, it’s the pain of a child who goes to bed hungry every night. But then, it’s that same kid offering his last cookie without hesitation to another child who happens to be just a little bit hungrier that day. Or maybe, it’s a group of orphans who, when given two gifts on a special occasion, choose to take that second present and redistribute it to a child on the street whose plight they’re all too familiar with.

So, you see, sometimes love and pain really do go hand in hand. Maybe it’s true, that one cannot exist without the other. But for all the pain that exists out there, love is always at work and it is always around us.

Stephen Schirra, Storyteller