Teaching P.E. at a grade school is far from predictable; in fact the unpredictability is what is predictable. One day everyone wants to participate and the next day everyone wants to talk about their upcoming weekend. Amidst this unpredictability, one thing has rung true, the students at St. Patrick’s have taught me how dependent we are on one another.

Everyone remembers middle school P.E. class. There were those kids who were already destined for athletic greatness, other students who could not be motivated to move their feet even if their life depended on it, and the majority of the kids who are stuck somewhere in the middle.  So, when I make four squads for a month long soccer unit there is a plethora of complaining. The teams are inevitably unfair or one team is automatically going to win because of who is on that team.  However, the magic immediately starts once the whistle blows.

Over the next 50 minutes I hear complaints ranging from Johnny saying Dan is not trying hard enough or Tony accusing Eric of not passing the ball. These complaints continue throughout the month.  However, as the month progresses one of the teams slowly creeps up as the winning team. They do not dominate the other teams, but class session after class session they win their games.  I begin to look at the four teams and realize what is happening. It seems that one of the teams has an athletically gifted student who complains and tries to do it all himself. Yet, the team that continues to win has an equally athletic student who takes the time to coach his team, and continues to support the students who do not participate as actively. This trend is not unique to the soccer unit. It has stayed true throughout all the units we have had from football to handball to hockey to lacrosse and basketball.

Observing this particular trend in my students made me realize that I should take some time to reflect on my own life. What are the gifts I’ve been given? How do I use those gifts for the benefits of others? And perhaps more importantly, who are the people in my life who lift me up by sharing their gifts with me? It was easy to turn to my current community as examples of the last question.  Emily, Sarah, and Jon have been constant sources of growth and comfort throughout the last 6 months. We have learned from one another’s life experiences; both the good and the bad. We have taught each other how to celebrate the wonders of simple living, and how to awe at the new city we now call home. Perhaps most importantly though, is the lesson of dependence they have taught me. Without all of us, our community would not work.

So whether it is a student coaching their classmates in a simple game of soccer or a community supporting you throughout the year, I have seen God in the “other” during my AV experience. I have learned that to be successful I must use my gifts to help others and accept the gifts others offer me. Selfishness leads to losing soccer games. Winning requires acknowledging that everyone, no matter who they are, is important to scoring that goal.

Rodrigo Rivera

San Diego, CA 2016-2017

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