I attended my Fellowship group yesterday. It's a small group, about 5-10 people show up every week. Usually, we have weekly meetings and discuss passages from the Bible. Afterwards, we have prayer requests and talk. And let me tell you something, its probably the best bunch of friends and people I've been around, since I've been back to NY. I mean, we're all older folks, I'm one of the youngest at 29, and there's a sense that we're all friends. It's not those kind of "friendships" or groups with people that, well, you know. (Trust me, I've recently been in a group like "that". It's kinda sad, really. Especially, when its more about hurting each other, avoiding communication, and defriending people over facebook, than what it should be - ironing out differences, making things right and working together for common goals. And I'm going to state this for the record, I'm no saint, either. I had a part in whatever happened.) So, going back to my Fellowship group, which I've come to appreciate a lot more now. Maybe its the fact that we truly value each other as human beings. Or maybe its the fact that we're all Christians. Or maybe its the fact that we're all New Yorkers and can appreciate "real" people. My guess? Its all of the above and that we're in our 30's.
Also, when I recently did a WNYC Public radio program, I heard from the members of the fellowship group about my "talk". They were very supportive and took me aside for nearly 2 hours to discuss my life. How could you not be appreciative of that gesture? And when it came time for prayer requests yesterday, I opened up about my parents and yet, again was pulled aside to discuss my life. The host, Jerome, told me that I had this higher journey, fighting for so many people, and that I needed to really think about what God wanted me to do. I responded that I knew I had to represent them - the fellowship group - as well, because they were always watching me. :) And in a year, or 2, or 3, when its all said and done, maybe it was this group - and not the other one - which enabled me to reach my highest potential. They were always so supportive, and understanding. They weren't the most connected, well-educated, and "famous", but at least they always believed in the good in people, especially and including the "goodness" in me. :D
Now that I think of it, does anyone remember the movie Invincible? It came out in 2006. Well, it was about a bartender, teacher, and an average fan who tried out for the Philadelphia Eagles squad in the 70's. Dick Vermeil had become the new HC and wanted to shake things up for the team. They were a hapless bunch and he had this novel idea of open tryouts. So Vince Papale, against all odds, made the team. He overcame the obstacles of his wife leaving him, RIGHT AFTER he was fired from his part-time teaching job. Also his wife, took everything (furniture, etc) when she left him, leaving him a cold note saying "Vince, you're never going to make any money, you're never be successful and you're never going to do anything in life." Actually, this note serves as motivation to Vince Papale until the beginning of the regular NFL season, which then he rips up. But its what happens in training camp, when he's trying to make the team, that I'll always remember.
As he trains and practices with the Eagles veterans during the summer, he's often alone and isolated. Nobody likes him and he's often cheap shotted, and hit harder than the other players. No one seems to care about this "guy" who comes from the streets. And all he wants to do is make the team. (But if he makes it, then someone has to go, which is the constant source of friction and hatred/jealously among his teammates.) So can he make the team? He's 30. He has no college football experience. He isn't even the best Wide Receiver on the team. But he's out there everyday, chugging along. And as he continues to play football, others on the team sneak into his locker and try to dig up dirt. They eventually find the note that his ex-wife left him. Then, one day in practice the linebacker brings it up.
Scene: After he picks up and tackles Papale, the LB says: She was right old man. You ain't going nowhere!
Papale: (gets up, and fights him)
Assistant HC: Break it up. (looks at Papale in disgust. He doesn't like Vince either. The team then runs to the end of the field. Vince is standing, exhausted.)
Then, another player comes over and gives a mocking gesture to Vince. He continues to stand there. The crowd who saw the whole thing, stands up and cheers for him.
And thats one of my favorite scenes from the movie. Do you know how appreciative Vince was of that crowd who stood up and cheered for him? That right there, probably kept him going. And its the same feeling I get when my fellowship group does the same for me. Even when the rest of my "teammates" can't stand me.
Eventually, Vermeil chooses Vince over the veteran WR, citing "character". There's that word again!? And maybe its character, and not just talent which helps one succeed in life. But it helps, I believe, when you have a great support group and fans who cheer you on...