I love sports. In grade school and junior high school, I dreamed of completing a pass with time running out and winning the state football championship. I had similar fantasies regarding a last-second shot in basketball and a home run in the bottom of the ninth.
As a sophomore in high school, because I had a small frame, I decided basketball was my game. I was quick and had a good two-handed set shot (ask your father or grandfather what that was). Tryouts were held in October. I played hard, stole the ball on several occasions, and made a few long outside set shots; however, when the coach posted the names of the team members, mine was not on the list. I was crushed. My dream of having the cheerleaders swarm all over me after my game-winning shot was lost forever.
I regrouped by summer and decided maybe football was my game after all. At tryouts I put on the helmet, shoulder pads, and other gear. On my way out to the practice field, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking to myself, “Hey, you look taller! And when you turn sideways, you don’t disappear!” But then I noticed the big guys looked bigger too.
In the first few drills, I felt fine. My speed allowed me to come in near the first in the sprints, and my confidence soared. Then came scrimmage. I was given the ball and told to run straight up the middle. As I got to the line, I was met by the biggest defensive lineman on the team. He planted his helmet in the pit of my stomach, wrapped his arms around my thighs, picked me up, threw me on the ground, and jumped on top of me. The only reason I didn’t fumble is that the ball was implanted permanently in my rib cage. As my friends carried my limp, breathless body off the field, I heard the coach say to the tackle, “Ooh! Wow! Nice hit, Kimber!”
Once again, my dreams were shattered—not to mention my ribs and ego. In the weeks that followed, I began to look around to see what else life had to offer. It took a while, but I made a marvelous discovery: there is a lot more to life than sports.
I looked at my classmates in a different light. In addition to the respect I already had for good athletes, I began to appreciate the individual talents of each person. I marveled at those gifted with artistic ability. I looked at their paintings and thrilled at their talent. Others had developed their talents in music. I watched in amazement as a pianist played classical music. A dancer fascinated me with her grace and creativity. I read things written by a poetic pen. I laughed and cried as I watched our thespians perform. They actually made me forget who they were and convinced me they had become the characters on the stage. Some of my friends excelled in academics.
In short, a whole new world began to appear. I remember thinking how sad it was that these talents didn’t receive the publicity and glory afforded our athletic heroes. I thought of the hours, days, weeks, months, and years of practice, study, and meditation it took to develop these talents without having the encouragement of a cheering crowd or being elected homecoming queen.
I wish I could propel each of you into the 25th reunion of your high school class; for those of you who are seniors, that will be in the year 2013. You would gain a perspective which would prove invaluable. You would find yourself much more interested in what your classmates were than in what they wore. If you could observe your classmates 25 years from now, and then return with that knowledge to your present situation, there would be quite an adjustment in your thinking.
With this perspective you would realize that the shy boy sitting behind you is to become a medical doctor and, besides, that his acne will clear up. You would realize that the bookworm blonde to the left of you will become a journalist, and with contact lenses she is quite attractive at that.
You would be able to look inside your classmates and see their spiritual qualities, the qualities they will take with them into the next life and throughout eternity. You would be proud of their accomplishments and rejoice in each other’s successes.
One of my favorite examples of this genuine appreciation we can have for others was recorded by Alma. He had been on a mission and was separated from Ammon and his brethren, who were on a mission of their own. When they finally got back together after many years, Alma said, “God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full.
“But I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren. …
“Now, when I think of the success of these my brethren my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy” (Alma 29:13–14, 16).
Our Father in Heaven blessed us with variety. He gave us water and dry land, he gave us various forms of plant and animal life, and he gave us individual personalities and talents. Life is more interesting because we have variety. We will have more joy and be more successful as individuals if we are aware of the people around us, our family, and our friends, as individuals and appreciate them for who and what they are. You will have won a great personal battle when the successes of your classmates become a joy in your life rather than a jealousy.
Our quest for exaltation is our own. Entrance into the celestial kingdom isn’t determined by competition or popularity; we don’t have to “beat anyone out” to get there. And when we greet each other in the celestial kingdom, we will know what Alma meant by “my joy is more full because of the success of my brethren.”