Today I want to tell you a story about a guy. He was a just a simple kid who grew up in a little town and spent his time playing sports, especially soccer, with his buddies in the school yard. He also loved to ski, kayak, and swim in the river near his house. He was passionate about all sports and had a lot of friends. Unfortunately, his happy childhood was interrupted when his mother died when he was just nine years old. This was devastating to him and his family. Then, his older brother died when he was 12 and he was never the same.
He and his father, the only two left in his family, moved into a one-room apartment, where his father cooked for him and sewed clothes for him to wear. His father wanted him to be tough, so he made him study in a bitter cold room with no heat in the middle of winter. He believed this would increase his concentration and help him to do very well in school.
His father also wanted him to still have fun too. So, when he could not afford a soccer ball, his father made him one out of rags, so that his son could still run and play. Eventually, the guy graduated from high school and was accepted to a university, where he looked forward to beginning his studies.
What do you think happened to this guy? Do you think he made it? Do you think he was successful? Do you think he made his father proud? Do you think he became an electrician? A doctor? A teacher? A plumber? A lawyer? A millionaire? The funny thing about kids is that you just never know. You really just never know.
This guy I’m telling you about went on to the university and loved studying languages, poetry, philosophy and religion. He even started his own theatre company and was an actor for a while. He’s pretty famous today, but he wasn’t on a sitcom or in the movies. But he made it big. He was having a lot of fun in college until Communism began to limit the type of poetry he could read, plays he could perform, and the religion he could practice. So, his life took a different turn…he decided to do something about the pain and suffering he thought Communism was causing. Yet, he wasn’t a soldier or a politician.
This guy loved sports, but he’s not a famous athlete. He loved theatre, but wasn't an actor on Broadway or in the movies. Yet, his influence has been felt by millions world- wide. You all have heard of him. Because of his commitment to others, huge, adoring crowds met him wherever he went. People stood out in sweltering heat or pouring rain just to get a slight glimpse of him. People traveled countless miles just to see him wave from a window. And because he spoke eight languages fluently, he was able to communicate to so many and to bring peace and comfort to people all across the globe.
The guy, this soccer player, this son, this graduate I’m telling you about was named Karol Wojtyla. Do you know him? If you don’t recognize him by that name, maybe it would help if I told you that most people knew this guy as Pope John Paul II.
It didn’t matter if his fans were Catholic, Muslim, Jewish or Atheist, American, Italian or Cuban, Pope John Paul II, was recognized as a universal symbol of strength, courage, and values for everyone.
According to CNN News Correspondent John Allen, “You'd be hard pressed to name any global figure who has achieved 100 percent of the things they set out to achieve. It is doubtful there has ever been a man who so successfully translated his strength, determination and faith into such widespread respect and goodwill.”
My reasons for writing about this distinguished man have absolutely nothing to do with religion because I no longer attend any church. It has 100% to do with the guy…the man he became. I want to emphasize for all parents that no young boy finishes playing soccer, sits down, drinks his Gatorade, and turns to his buddies and says “You know, I think I will be the Pope when I grow up.” It just doesn’t happen. I’m sure he didn’t say it. I’m sure your child has never said it. But the wonderful truth is that we just never know. We cannot predict what choices they will make or risks they’ll take and the results that will follow.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with the words of Pope John Paul the II, who so deeply affected the world, “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
As a parent, you never know what miracle you're growing. That runny-nosed, grimy munchkin in your kitchen having a cookie, may one day, become a saint.