Friday, February 26, 2016

On Gluten, False Stories, and Empathy

The other day, I saw an article that surprised, then saddened me.

Presidential candidate Ted Cruz promised that when he's president, there will be no more gluten-free meals for our armed forces!

WHAT?!  That seems like an extremely strange issue to make a position in a Presidential election.  Even more strange that he was taking a position against providing relief for people who may have food allergies.

The reason?  Providing gluten-free meals, for Mr. Cruz, is nothing more than an exercise in political correctness.  And he will have no part in that.

Mr. Cruz likely has no relationship with anyone in his life that battles gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, or he would see the daily battle with headaches and other pains and realize this issue goes beyond political correctness. In the absence of those relationships, he has written what he clearly does not understand into a false story of political correctness.

And he's not the only one to do this.  We all do.
We are quick to write stories to simply describe the things we do not understand.

Gluten sensitivity.
Racial Discrimination.
Divorcees.  Addicts.  Single moms.  Gang members.
Catholics.  Protestants.  Evangelicals.
Republicans.  Democrats.

If we don't really get to know the people walking these paths, it's likely that (like Mr. Cruz) we have already written a story and printed a label.

Politically correct.
Race bating...

And there's really only one way to find out if those labels are wrong: dig deeper.
Get to know someone.  Ask questions.  Listen.  Listen again.  And again.  Pray for empathy, understanding, and Truth.

If we do this, we just might find out that the simple stories we have written about others are far from sufficient to describe the complexities of our human experience.

Hebrews 13:3
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Friday, February 5, 2016

LOVE MY CITY: Michiana Youth Soccer

Sophie kicks off with the Super Seals! (2014)
Those of you that know me know that I'm a big soccer fan, so this may come as no surprise.  

Our city is blessed to have Michiana Youth Soccer (MSA:

In general, kids soccer is great.  They can run around, get great exercise, and learn some healthy life lessons.  But having a great experience goes beyond that, and MSA checks the right boxes.

I've talked to many families in other cities whose kids are in youth soccer and the range of stories is a bit unsettling.  Some practices in other leagues amount to setting a ball down on the field and babysitting kids as they run around.  Some games I've heard about include throwing a full team of kids (not even separated by gender - a distinct challenge for young girls) out on a full sized field where some kids may see action only a couple times a game.

Not so with MSA.  

We are blessed in South Bend to have a league that takes player development and positive atmosphere seriously.  Coach Bo Hunter (the director of coaching) ensures that the league follows national youth soccer protocols with small-sided, gender-specific games (so kids are always involved in the action) and detailed practice plans for coaches.  He also regularly reminds coaches and parents about the values that are truly important for kids to make sure that the adults don't miss the point and ruin the fun for the kids.  This may seem basic, but it's unfortunately all too uncommon.

Over time MSA has also grown to include different levels to provide a variety of opportunities for kids.  Is your kid just starting out?  Or prefers to just have fun without the messiness of much focused effort?  There's the Recreational Division!  Does your child still want to have fun, but also wants to put in some work with teammates & coaches that are a bit more focused and competitive?  There's the Academy Division!  And if you're the family that's ready to go all-in with soccer (time & effort), there is a partnership with Junior Irish Soccer Club (travel).

On a personal note, I couldn't be more thankful for the experience our family has had with MSA.  It has provided our girls confidence, fun, and a motivation to exercise.  It has given our family strong friendships with the girls and parents we've grown up with on our teams.  And it has given me the privilege of spending quality time with my girls as a volunteer coach alongside other great dads like Shane Fenske.

If you are interested in MSA, there are Fall and Spring seasons for boys and girls ages 4-15.  Registration for this Spring '16 season ends February 15 on the MSA website.