Friday, June 1, 2012

Michael Jordan and Agnes

The NBA draft in 1984 was remarkable for many reasons.  The first being that my beloved Portland Trailblazers and the Houston Rockets flipped a coin for the very first pick.  Houston won the flip and chose arguably one of the best centers to ever play the game in Hakeem Olajuwon.  The Trailblazers thus had the second pick.  There was a promising young wing man available, but the Blazers already had the brilliant Clyde Drexler and Jim Paxson on their roster.  What they really needed was a big man.  With that being the case, they chose Sam Bowie as the second pick of the draft that year and thus allowed the Chicago Bulls to pick Michael Jordan as the third pick of the draft.
The rest is history, of course, as Michael Jordan came to be the player that was synonymous with basketball and a champion that dominated the NBA during his career.  He is still one of the most recognizable sports stars in the world, despite the fact that he has been retired for nearly a decade.  Ask anyone who the greatest NBA player of all time is and odds are good that Michael Jordan will be the answer you get.  He really was that good, and I cry to think what my Trailblazers could have accomplished with Drexler and Jordan as teammates.  Of course my Blazers seemed intent on repeating history when a few short years ago they chose the perpetually-injured and now retired Greg Oden with the first pick of the draft instead of the amazing Kevin Durant, but I digress.

The fact is that Jordan was an extraordinary player that elevated the playing level of all of his team-mates.  His determination made everyone on his team better.  His entrance into the NBA forever changed the game in new and exciting fashion.  One man with skill and burning determination changed the game and became a world-renowned icon.  Players of his caliber come along only once in several generations.

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on August 26th of 1910 in Skopje, now the capitol of Macedonia.  This slight and unassuming lady heard God’s call at an early age and therefore decided to live a life consecrated to Christ as a nun.  She was called again by God in September of 1946.  He asked her to form the Missionaries of Charity because, as He told her, by her weak and sinful nature her future accomplishments through Him would glorify Christ.  In her humility and obedience she asked permission of her archbishop to proceed in her Divinely-instructed task and in January of 1948 was granted permission accordingly.

Agnes labored and toiled in the slums of Calcutta, India and throughout the world helping the sick and poverty-stricken.  At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity that she founded had 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices and homes for people with AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis.  She established soup kitchens, child and family counseling programs, orphanages, and schools throughout the world.
Through her willingness to say “yes” to God’s call she was able to glorify Him and help literally millions of people directly and indirectly throughout the world.

Agnes was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her indefatigable caring of the sick, poor, unwanted, and unloved.  When asked at receiving the award, "What can we do to promote world peace?" She answered "Go home and love your family."

Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu has been beatified since her death in 1997 and is awaiting a second miracle accredited to her in order to complete the process of being recognized as a Saint by the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  Of course, the world knew Agnes as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa changed the world by her perseverance, faith, and most of all love.  She was voted as the most admired person of the 20th century by a wide margin in a 1999 Gallup poll.  She was rather apathetic on a personal level about temporal awards given to her, but dutifully accepted them for the attention and money that they could bring in order to lessen the suffering of others in the world. People of her character also come around once in scores of generations.

Summing up her life in characteristically self-effacing fashion, Mother Teresa said, "By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

Today, when one asks a child, or even most adults who their heroes are, Michael Jordan could very likely be one of the answers one would receive.  Indeed, he elevated basketball to an entirely new plateau and will go down in history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of all time.  That said, his accomplishments are as nothing when compared to a petite and humble lady that was willing to listen and devote her life to glorifying God through her actions.

Despite that, can one imagine how absolutely amazing the game of basketball would be today if there were a dozen Michael Jordan’s playing in the NBA now?  The excitement of the competition would be incredible.  Basketball would surely become the most dominating sport in the world accordingly with such talent exhibited.

Far more importantly, can one imagine how much better a place the world would be today if there were a dozen Mother Teresa’s in it?  How many lives could be made better?  How many hopeless people would know that there was someone that cared?  How many sick and dying would know that there was still love in the world?

While I admire the talents and accomplishments of Michael Jordan, and dearly wish my Trailblazers had been more prescient in their draft choice, his life’s work pales horribly in comparison to someone who really is deserving of the moniker of hero, even though Mother Teresa would never accept the title.  If only there were a dozen more heroes like Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in the world.  Better yet, if only every single person out of the nearly 7 billion in the world would stop for a moment and do just a single act of kindness towards their fellow man, as Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ would wish it, what a better place we would all make our world.  I am sure even Michael Jordan would agree.

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