I’m a coach. I’ve coached volleyball for 32 years at a Division III college, where we are a small community, but where we learn great lessons. The volleyball court is my greatest classroom, as I wrote about in my book titled “Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games” (2012 Balboa Press).
My team’s record in the fall of 2015 was 2-24. That means we lost 24 of the 26 matches we played. It is said that you either win or you learn. Suffice it to say the Hornets learned a lot. We learned how to deal with loss. According to Sportuality, the word “Victory” means “to persevere.” One thing that made me so proud of my team this year was their ability to get up, come back to practice, and keep working on our weaknesses to turn them into strengths. And we won the final game of our season in 5 sets, always persevering, always believing, and never giving up.
And as most of you know, the community of Kalamazoo experienced a great loss on Saturday night, February 20, when a lone gunman chose to kill six innocent members of our community. I see my fair city needing a victory as well. We need to persevere with one another through the gaping hole where our sense of safety once resided. We need to be there for one another when waves of grief overcome us because the national disease of gun violence has invaded Kalamazoo. And we need to persevere just because this event is so terribly sad.
Sportuality also defines the word “community” as “to have charge of together.” Now, following the events of Saturday night, we have charge of making sense of the senseless, of comforting one another in our shock, our fear, and our grief. We have charge of our common humanity, together. We carry on as if. We do our jobs. We watch our news. We gather in churches and houses and public places to be together and to acknowledge our unity.
I find it a great irony that just that morning, I and hundreds of others gathered in joy at the annual Polar Plunge event at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo to raise funds for the athletes of Special Olympics. And then at the end of the day, Bell’s was where the shooter was ultimately apprehended and taken into custody. Joy and grief, life and death, good and evil: we don’t have one without the other. We seek meaning and purpose in this life, and this one’s hard. There’s not any immediate meaning or purpose. But if I know my Kalamazoo community, we’ll find a way. We will create victory out of loss, love out of hate, and we will persevere toward a greater way of being, together. All of us. Together. We’ve got this.