When the World Series was approaching, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. As an avid Cubs baseball fan, who, if anyone, would I cheer on? Obviously I am not a Boston Red Sox or a Dodger fan. In fact, the Dodgers have been rivals of the Cubs especially at playoff time for a couple years now. And I really don’t subscribe to the “once your team is out you just cheer for the National or American League depending on which your team is in” tradition. You might be thinking, “why would you need to cheer anyone on.” After all, your team is out. Yet I was very aware, even as I had “no horse in this race”, I had dear friends on both sides who did. I think more than feeling the need to cheer for someone as the series started, I found myself back and forth trying to figure out who I might cheer with.
In the end I had a meaningful epiphany out on my morning run after we were a game or two into the World Series. It solidly solved things for me. While moving around the corner of a park I suddenly realized I was on a holy threshold in this whole thing when I (or something in me) shifted my thinking from who to cheer for to who to cheer with. The steady rhythm of pounding the pavement further solidified the focus on my friends. Ancient wisdom rising reminded and filled me with the clarity of love and commitment to community that said, you don’t need to worry about following a team or picking a side. Your focus is on following your friends. Simply accompany and cheer them on, on this current piece of their journey. And for the rest of the series, that’s what I did. I Facebook messaged and texted friends who were cheering for Boston and LA asking them how they were holding up depending on the day, or what they thought might be next. I asked them what concerned them or what was exciting them. I practiced deep listening and compassionate companionship, through baseball.
The best gift of this whole intriguing experience, was that it kept deepening or expanding to invite reflection and inquiry about how we might accompany one another in more helpful ways in other areas of life where we disagree. There are many more pressing spaces and places we have differing loyalties as we live than baseball. Just think about politics, religion, or what it means to be a neighbor. They, too, challenge us to explore how we will approach or treat one another when differing colors, positions or players appeal to each of us. They invite us to struggle with how we might move together as a “National and American league” whether any of us feels we “have a particular horse in the race”, or not at any given time. How far should we go with our loyalties to one “team”? Is there a larger commitment to a common humanity, respect for each one’s dignity and passions or convictions that exists beyond our need to “draw blood” or “win the game”? What will it take to be infused with a sense of all being on the same team equal to if not greater than the celebration of the beauty of each of our countless tribes? How might we listen to and accompany one another in the larger game of life, no matter our diverse investment in the particulars?
We live in a time when we desperately need both deep convictions, and a deep commitment to keep learning to “cheer for one another” and especially – all of us together – most of all. We don’t all need to run, but we do all need to discover what practices might help us individually and as communities come to further epiphanies and clarities that may not “solidly solve things”, but certainly might at least get us in the ballpark.