April 5, 2024

Reflection / John Shaughnessy

An Irish poet’s prayer, a ‘Ted Lasso’ scene and a song of hope remind us of who we are called to be

John ShaughnessyIn the midst of our busy lives, we often need reminders of who we are called to be.

During a day when completing a series of errands seemed important, I was rushing from returning some items at the library when a thin book at the edge of a display table caught my eye.

Flipping through the first pages of Being Here by Irish poet Padraig O Tuama, I came across

“A Prayer for the People” that he had written, including this part:

“Jesus of Nazareth,
you encountered many lives
calling people to justice
love and curiosity.
May we—in all our nights, days
and activities—act with more
justice, love and curiosity.
Because this might save us,
and make us more like you,
who turns to us in love.

As you read those lines, maybe one word, phrase or thought jumped out to you. For me, it was “curiosity,” which immediately reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from the television series, “Ted Lasso.”

In that scene, which takes place in a crowded bar, Ted has agreed to a game of darts as part of a bet with the unscrupulous Rupert Mannion—at which point Mannion smirks as he pulls out a small, wooden case filled with exquisitely crafted darts, reflecting his prowess in the game. And all hope of Ted winning the bet seems to disappear as Mannion leads the game by a significant margin as Ted needs to hit a combination of seemingly impossible shots with his last three throws.

As Mannion sneers, “Good luck,” Ted prepares to throw his first dart, saying, “You know, Rupert, guys have underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day, I was driving my little boy to school, and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman, and it was painted on the wall there. It said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.”

Throwing his first dart, Ted hits the mark he needed, and then he continues, “So I get back in my car, and I’m driving to work, and all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them were curious. You know, they thought they had everything all figured out. So, they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me—who I was—had nothing to do with it. ‘Cause if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions. You know? Like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’ ”

Throwing his second dart, Ted hits the needed mark again. Then he says, “To which I would’ve answered, ‘Yes, sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father, from age 10 until I was 16 when he passed away.’ ”

A moment later, Ted throws his third dart, hitting the bullseye to win the game. While the crowd in the bar cheers, Ted looks at Mannion and says, “Good game, Rupert.”

There’s no doubt that we live in a time of divisiveness—when people often seem more judgmental than curious. And the same could be said of the divisions that exist within our faith. And yet, there come moments that remind us of who we are called to be.

My wife and I had one of those moments when we attended a concert featuring the musical choirs of Butler University in Indianapolis recently. We listened in joy as the students—Asian, Black, Hispanic and white—blended their voices in beautiful harmony, ending the evening with these lyrics from Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run”:

“We’re coming to the edge
Running on the water
Coming through the fog
Your sons and daughters
Let the river run
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation
Come, the New Jerusalem.”

Another reminder of who Christ calls us to be—people of hope, justice, curiosity and love.

(John Shaughnessy is the assistant editor of The Criterion and the author of Then Something Wondrous Happened.)

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