Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 7, 2004
People add the caring factor
At this time of year, thousands of children (and their parents) benefit from the efforts put forward by volunteer soccer coaches. These coaches are unsung heroes who give of their time and enthusiasm to help children and youth learn a bit about sports and some more about life.
A good coach helps his or her young players grow towards freedom of spirit. Winning is only secondary. The primary products are seeing children grow in confidence, learning to work with each other and being willing to give even the weakest member of the team an equal opportunity to participate.
These are hard virtues to learn given our naturally competitive nature and our society's overemphasis on winning and winners. They are, however, virtues for a lifetime.
In the midst of a federal election, the children's soccer coach can also serve as a reminder that a lot more goes into building a good society than choosing the right type of government. Too often, we may be trapped into thinking that Canada is defined by its government. Our nation is also defined, perhaps even more, by those endeavours that are rightly beyond the reach of government.
Government cannot determine the heart of the people (although it can surely influence it). A nation is surely determined by actions reflecting the conscience of the people. A great nation is one where a critical mass of the people are concerned for the well being of others. Its greatness is seen in how it treats the weakest of its members.
This greatness will certainly be revealed in government policies toward the sick, the poor, the foreigner, the aged and the young. But it will also be evident in the fact that we know bureaucratic solutions are no substitute for human contact.
The strength of good government is that it treats all people fairly; the strength of volunteerism is that it prevents society from becoming an anonymous and impersonal mass.
Jean Vanier, a great Canadian, once wrote, "A community is only a community when the majority of its members is making the transition from 'the community for myself' to 'myself for the community,' when each person's heart is opening to all the others, without any exception."
Our political debates often focus on which can better solve a social problem - the government or the marketplace?
But Pope John Paul wisely remarked, "The individual today is often suffocated between two poles represented by the state and the marketplace" (Centesimus Annus, 49). Both the state and the market must serve the higher goals of life and human dignity. It is essential that whatever solutions we devise not allow the person to get lost in the crowd.
Ultimately, politicians cannot be the guarantors of that. It is the responsibility of individual Canadians, as much as the government, to ensure the unique dignity of each person. We need to change our hearts as much as we need to change any government.
If, for example, we want good health care, we need good systems and adequate funding. But the perfect system and the best funding won't provide good health care unless the hearts of health-care providers are constantly turned towards meeting the full human needs of their patients. Governments cannot provide a guarantee of personal caring.
Canada is a thriving country partly because of its economy and its government programs. It also thrives because so many people go out of their way to help others.
Charity is no substitute for social justice; neither is justice a substitute for charity.
Letter to the Editor - 06/21/04
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.