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The Message

It's like a jungle sometimes

It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

Same may know the above lyrics from Grandmaster Flash and I really think they are very relevant in these days especially as we approach election day. Although the jungle may have mainly moved to the various social media platforms, the message is the same.

One thing I have learned through many years of being in the wrestling world is often times your biggest rival eventually becomes one of your best allies one way or the other. For one example my oldest son had a rival from another school in the region who he would wrestle time and time again sometimes winning and sometimes being defeated and this went on for years. Finally when he was a sophomore in high school he placed in the top 3 in the state in both the Greco Roman(2nd) and Freestyle(3rd) styles of wrestling and made the Pennsylvania State Team earning the opportunity to travel and compete on the National circuit and the team went on to win the Freestyle National Duals Championship in Daytona, Florida. And would you know it, his former rival became his roommate and training partner for the various camps they participated in to prepare for these events that also included the Fargo Individual Nationals. The following year he broke three vertebrae in his back wrestling at Reno Nationals and the very first people who reached out to us when this happened was this former rival and his Father. This really meant a lot to us at the time and helped motivate us in the challenge of what became a year long road to recovery being cleared just weeks before his senior season would start and eventually moving on to wrestle in college and end his career with a college degree so mission accomplished. I could give many more examples in this regard both competing and coaching wise but I will move on to my ultimate point.

Once when I was on the Holy Mountain my Elder sent me to another monastery to meet an Elder named Nektarios and as I sat in the guest room(archontariki) waiting for the Elder to arrive there were a handful of Greeks also sitting in the room. Now if anyone knows the Greek culture one thing you will know is that Greeks tend to be very loud and fast talkers often all speaking at the same time. Well, they were certainly living up to this reputation when finally one of them in broken English started to communicate with me a little. Anyhow, after some time passed I noticed through a window the Elder coming up the path towards the room we were in and so I became very prayerful and focused as the Greeks carried on with their loud and fast talking amongst themselves. When the Elder entered the room he sat in a seat directly in front of me and began speaking to me in Greek. After a few moments the Greek man that had spoken to me earlier in English interrupted to explain that I was not Greek and only spoke English. The Elder continued to speak to me in Greek again being interrupted by the man. This time the Elder to my surprise switched to very good English and said very sternly to the man, "I know the boy is from America but he is more Greek than any of you!" And then he continued to speak to me in English and said ,now, let me explain to you what I was saying...

First he asked, Do you know the message of the Cross?

Rather than waste his time I replied that I hope so but would love to have him teach me. He continued by holding his two hands together one vertically and one horizontally in the shape of a cross and and said you know this to be a cross to which I replied yes and then he pulled his hands apart and said how about his to which I said no. Furthermore, he explained that the vertical axis of the cross represents God's Love for us and our love for God and that the horizontal axis of the cross represents mans love for his fellow human beings. Next he states that only when the two axis are fully together do we begin to truly understand the message of the cross. He goes on to ask , I can tell you love God or else you would not be here but how about your fellow humans, do you love them as much as you love God? I replied I think so and he says and I am not just talking about your family and loved ones or even others that share the same views as you but what about the terrorist on the news who commits horrendous crimes, how much do you love him? I thought for a moment and said that is tough, how much should I love him? He concluded that I must find a way to love him the same as God loves him which is as one of his children with much love and compassion and that when my love reaches this level both for God and for my fellow humans(all of them) then I will truly understand the message of the Cross.

The above was a very powerful lesson that has stuck with me and one which I am trying to fulfill to the best of my ability on a daily basis. And this is my ultimate point that we must all find a love and respect for not only God but for all of our fellow human beings if we are to fulfill our full potential to which we were created. All of fellow human beings means not only our friends, family and loved ones, not just our teammates, not only the people who go to the same church, have the same cultural background, same ethnicity, same political views but rather every single person we ever come in contact with and when we do this then we all can understand the message that Christ gave us when he was nailed to the Cross for our sakes.

In conclusion, it is my utmost prayer that through these challenging times of differences of opinion on the pandemic(ex. masks/no masks), and the heated debates leading up to this election day (ex. left/right) that ultimately like former rivals in sports contests we discover a mutual love and respect for each and everyone of our fellow human beings and come together to find solutions that help us all maximize our own individual potential leading to a greater good across the world!

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