Competing for our attention this month from the chaos emanating from our nation’s capital, the N.C.A.A. national basketball championships, otherwise known as March Madness, offers comforting respite. All over television, sports pages, blogs, and social media, not to mention betting sites, these hyperized games open a window on the realm of youthful striving.
Take South Carolina’s upset over Duke last Sunday. As Zach Schonbrun reports some credit might belong to a fourth-generation funeral home director in Columbia, S.C., who serves as the team’s unofficial life coach. Baptist minister, Rev. Chris Leevy Johnson, serves as chief encourager. And it turns out he’s not the only life coach among the teams. This role seems to be catching on, and honestly, it makes a lot of sense. Thinking back to my college years, I could have benefitted from some life-coaching. Team life provides a natural container and opportunity for this sort of personal aid that impacts common ends.
This brings to mind key people in my life who were important mentors to me as I was emerging into full maturity (or the closest approximation I could manage…) A couple of these were persons whose lives were seamlessly infused with faith. A few were “larger-than-life.” Others were wise in their humble competence at balancing competing demands for time and attention while maintaining a generous, open, and expansive perspective full of compassionate regard.
I strongly encourage younger people to be on the lookout for mentors. These don’t have to last forever—just for a season or two perhaps. Then again, a few might be able to stay connected for decades. To be a mentee does require a measure of humility, of course, as in, “I have things to learn about how a life well-lived is actually executed.”
As I write this I’m aware that the need for teachers and role models doesn’t end at 29 or 39; those in their 60’s and 70’s can use them as well. Each life stage has its learning curve, including the very last. Learning to die well can be modeled and taught. I’ve had mentors in this, too—I expect there will be others. Being part of a faith community doesn’t guarantee a raft of life coaches, but it greatly enhances the prospects. This occurred to me digesting the news of South Carolina’s win…
“Before South Carolina’s stunning upset of Duke in the second round of the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament on Sunday, the Gamecocks huddled in the tunnel leading to the court.
There they were addressed not by a teammate, a former player or even a basketball coach. The man in the center of the huddle was the Rev. Chris Leevy Johnson, a fourth-generation funeral home director in Columbia, S.C., who serves as the team’s unofficial life coach.
Johnson, a Baptist pastor and chaplain to the South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams, invoked the classic tale of David and Goliath before the East region game between the seventh-seeded Gamecocks and the No. 2-seeded Blue Devils. It was a fiery sermon, with a typically uplifting message.”