Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Jesus taught, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
I learned two great lessons from “children” this past week as I helped officiate at the Utah State swim championships.
Both are actually teenagers, rather than children, but their actions emulate true followers of Christ.
I served as the head timer of the 6A championships. The fancy-pansy title gives me the best seat in the house with a free entrance pass.
For whatever reason, I love the smell of chlorine and watching kids excel in their specialty after months of early morning workouts, countless repeat intervals, land exercises, and listening to their coach yell, “Pick up the pace!”
I especially keep my eyes on the swimmers in the outside lanes (that’s where I spent the bulk of my career) since they are the ones who seldom venture to the top of the medal podium.
My first lesson came from Chase Stoddard, a backstroker out of Layton High School. I work with his dad, so I kept my eye on him throughout the two-day meet.
I visited with one of Chase’s coaches and within 30 seconds, she praised Chase as an extraordinary young man, in addition to being a quality athlete.
Chase enjoyed a great state meet hitting his personal best times of the season in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 back. He improved enough to move up a few notches from his seeded spot to win a sixth-place medal and a place on the podium.
However, behind the scenes and out of the glare of public spotlight, he demonstrated true Christian action.
Chase gave up his spot on the Lancers’ 400 free relay so a teammate listed as an alternate could experience the thrill of participating in the state championship swim meet.
I agree with Chase’s dad who told me, “I don’t know if I would have done that. I’m really proud of him.”
The second experience came from St. George and the Christ-like love of three Snow Canyon swimmers.
About two weeks ago, my daughter-in-law called me and wanted to know what I could do to change what she strongly felt was an injustice to a special needs swimmer
Amber Graves, who was born with Down syndrome, has been a dedicated member of her high school swim team.
She was unable to qualify for the state meet, but her coach and teammate wanted her to participate.
I reasoned that qualifying for State is a difficult task and reserved for the top 24 swimmers in each event. If they let Amber swim in an exhibition, what about all the others who just missed qualifying?
And what about the other special need swimmers? By letting Amber swim, isn’t that just treating all the others unfairly?
I explained there may be a way to do it, but it takes time to do it right. Better luck next year.
Boy, was I wrong.
In the end, four young ladies on Snow Canyon’s 200 free relay drew straws to decide who would give their spot so Amber could swim at State.
The Snow Canyon coach said, “When I told them that one of them was going to have to give up her relay spot, all four of them, without hesitation, volunteered to let Amber take her place.”
For those lacking in faith about the future of community, nation, and world and negatively wondering aloud about “Kids these days,” please rest at ease. The future is in great hands with the rising generation.
I agree with John who wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” and firmly believe we all can learn from the everyday actions of children in our home and community.
Amber’s story can be found by searching “Amber St. George News” on the Web.
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.