by Father Mark Goldasich
“E pluribus unum.”
Those words are found on the back of pennies and dollars, but the print is so small, you have to squint to see the letters. I started a talk with those three words last Friday when I had the privilege of addressing the Chieftain football team at Tonganoxie High School.
Matt Bond, one of the team’s coaches and a parishioner, invited me. He explained the program like this: “Each year, with our captains and coaches, we set our Team Core Covenants. We use these covenants to help teach our young men how to become productive citizens throughout life. . . . Each week, we have a word of the week. The kids discuss these in small groups and then must get up in front of the entire team and recite what it means.”
My word was “unity,” and what better place to begin than with that Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” which means, “Out of the many, one.” Naturally, it refers to those original 13 colonies that joined to fight for independence from Britain. But those words can also apply to football . . . or life in general.
If any team is going to be successful, it has to work as one, even though it’s comprised of many members. There has to be a common goal that all are working toward, or all its efforts will be in vain.
There’s a difference, though, between “unity” and “uniformity.” Unity respects differences in the pursuit of a common goal. Uniformity means that everyone does the exact same thing in the exact same way.
Can you imagine a football team where everyone was a quarterback? It would be complete chaos and an utter failure. That’s why any successful team strives for unity, not uniformity.
But unity demands two byproducts: respect and humility. Because everyone has different gifts, a respectful person is grateful for that diversity and encourages the sharing of those various gifts for the common good, to make the whole better.
The other byproduct is humility. The older we get, the more we become aware of how dependent we are on others.
For example, someone made the clothes that we’re wearing. And someone else drove the clothing to a store, using fuel produced by someone else and driving on roads built and maintained by still other people.
In other words, we need each other to keep the world ticking. One person can’t do alone.
This story makes that point well:
One day, a young girl came home from school crying because she had only a small part in the school play while her playmate got the lead. After drying the girl’s eyes, her mother took off her watch, put it in her daughter’s hand and said, “What do you see?”
“A gold band, a watch face and two hands,” answered the girl.
Opening the back of the watch, the mother again asked what the daughter saw. Looking closely at the internal watch mechanism, the girl noticed many little wheels, springs and other tiny pieces.
“This watch would be useless,” said the mother, “without every part — even the tiny ones you can hardly see.”
The girl never forgot this lesson, which helped her throughout life to see the importance of every person, no matter how seemingly insignificant. (Adapted from a story by Mrs. Floyd Crook, found in “Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
Before I spoke to the football team, they’d already heard about focus, purpose, servanthood, confidence and poise. All these lessons will make these young athletes models for the whole school and beyond. We adults are called also to model these values in our lives to make our families, churches, cities and nation successful.
In a world that so often preaches uniformity over unity, disrespect over respect, and egotism over humility, our rallying cry must be: E pluribus unum.
Hey, it’s worked for the Chieftains, the Twelve Apostles and the 13 original colonies. There’s no reason it can’t work for us as well.