Winds of Peace Foundation has embraced many goals for itself since its beginnings: we have sought to help cultivate economic opportunity for the poor, social justice for women, restoration of rights for Indigenous peoples, strengthened education for children, fostered peace and reconciliation between the marginalized and the empowered, and encouraged an holistic health and well-being for the sick. The list is ambitious and maybe unrealistic in some people’s views, but that doesn’t render the goals any less important or urgent. (The rescuers at the buried hotel in the French Alps last month began their efforts with individual hand scoops of snow, which eventually led to saving lives.)
Along the way, the work spawns the entire range of human emotions. Often we feel frustration at the slow pace of change, both within Nicaragua and in the U.S. and other nations. There is also joy, such as in knowing that Foundation resources have made it possible for young children to access books for reading. Irritation is never far away, often associated with someone’s lack of context or understanding, where a good intention paradoxically becomes a hindrance to progress. There are even occasional moments of anger, as when someone of privilege abuses that posture, at the expense (usually) of the most defenseless in society. Nicaragua is home to many causes for emotional reaction.
So it was with a sense of another emotion- incredulity- that I read about… a basketball fan. I’m not much of a fan myself, usually only paying attention in March as the collegiate teams vie for playoff glories. But I couldn’t help but notice the results of a recent match-up between the Universities of Iowa and Minnesota. The teams not only played close, but actually extended the game to two overtime periods, before Minnesota prevailed. Apparently, the end result was helped significantly by an errant call by a referee late in the game, a fact that left the Iowa faithful unhappy, at best. But, bad calls are part of the game of basketball. Referees are human, they can only see so much at a time, there are lots of big bodies pivoting all over the court at high speed. When the mistakes happen, we shake our heads and move on. It’s part of what makes the game and sometimes creates basketball lore. Right?
The day following the game, I read some of the displeasure of the Iowa fans in the news. And there, among the laments and the grieving, emerged a comment which grabbed and confronted me. One Iowa fan confided, “This fills me with an anger I have never felt before.”
I needed to first consider what the writer was saying, that never before had he/she ever felt such a rage. Then I felt many emotions for the writer: pity, that something as comparatively insignificant as a game (one being watched, not played) could command such control over his/her life; joy, that he/she had apparently never had occasion to experience great anger in life; perplexity, for someone whose emotional passion is apparently confined to entertainment; and, yes, anger, that of all the injustices in our country and the world today, this was the one to garner his/her deep emotion.
There are many realities that might give rise to anger: the murder of an innocent 2-year old in Chicago comes to mind; genocide in Syria and Africa; racial injustice in the U.S. and other countries; an average Nicaraguan income of $2 a day. An accounting of human tragedies around the world provides a surplus of reasons for deep-seated anger. But a missed call during a basketball game?
Maybe it was overstatement, something “tweeted” in the heat of a disappointing moment. Maybe the writer was looking for a way to underscore just how unhappy he/she was feeling with poor officiating. But as I thought about the declaration, I thought I recognized a brutal truth about it. For those of us living in the material bounty of a place like the U.S., priorities too often become defined by our craving for comforts. We reach a point psychologically where we want what we want, and we believe we somehow deserve it, and that’s what is important, enough so to engender a depth of anger “never felt before.”
The entire episode made me, well, uncomfortable. I pulled from my wall a framed quotation from Kahlil Gibran: “…the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.” Here’s hoping that the comforts of our lives never take over matters that have meaning….