Some years ago, I coached a varsity soccer team. We actually got to the final, and on that last day everyone showed up to the field. All of the guys were quite pumped up and ready to play. I was excited too. And I wanted to win. I had 22 players on that team. Only 16 played that day.
A couple of years after this event, I went, as usual, to one of my son’s soccer games. He was 8 years old or so. On that particular day, the coach did not play him at all, and when we got into the car my son started to cry.
It was at that moment that I immediately remembered the morning in Virginia when, instead of paying attention to the souls of those young players who had perhaps one chance in their high school soccer career to play a final (the team was not particularly talented), I wanted to win; I needed that win and I thought I was doing something good.
I turned to my son who was still crying in the car, and I said to him, “Forgive me, your coach did not play you today because of me.” And I told him the story.
Divine justice? No. Did I deserve to suffer through my son? No. Did my son deserve to suffer? No.
Then why did I need to ask for forgiveness?
Perhaps because I contributed to a world in which ugliness was possible. Perhaps because there were times when, instead of acting like a shepherd, I occasioned, voluntarily or involuntarily, suffering and ugliness in it. I participated in and contributed to the world’s ugliness.
On that day, I realized I needed to ask for forgiveness because I perceived the similarity of the situations. But even if I had not harmed those kids by not playing them, I should have still told my son, “forgive me, the coach did not play you because of me.” As I should say to anyone who suffers, regardless of whether his or her suffering is in direct connection with me: forgive me, I am somehow contributing to it.
After I told him the story, my son asked me among tears: “Why did you have to not play those kids?”
I can offer no answers…