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What keeps me Catholic? The Pinewood Derby

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June 1, 2012

By Michael Daley

Though I am involved in it now, growing up I never participated in Cub Scouts. Merit badges, camp songs, numerous knots, nature hikes, and official uniforms were not part of my childhood years.

One of the great joys (and anxieties) of parenthood, though, is taking part through our children in some activities that we missed out on as kids.

 

Enter the Pinewood Derby.

 

Because of previous Saturday conflicts, I had never been able to be there for the race and experience the drama first hand. This year, however, I had a front row seat. And it hurt.
Prior to the day and with little (honestly) help from his parents, my son had worked hard on his car. What emerged was Bigfoot, a hairy yet sleek machine built for speed (or so we thought).

 

Back to live action.

 

The first of six heats was getting ready to begin. The cars were gently placed into their racing lanes. Bigfoot cast an imposing shadow over his competitors. 3…2…1. The cars shot out of the gate—except Bigfoot. Though I’m not an expert in aerodynamics, I attribute it to one thing—drag. Embarrassingly, it didn’t even cross the finish line—Cub Scout humiliation at its finest. What was worse is that this repeated itself five more times. Like the corner man in boxing, I wanted to throw the towel in for my bruised and bloodied son. But I didn’t.

 

After the first race he had hope, but by the sixth one you could see the pain on his face as he went to retrieve his car inches in front of the finish line. It wasn’t so bad we told him. The design award was coming up. Bigfoot was a shoe in for the trophy. We smiled at each other as they announced third, second, and finally, first place. Unfortunately, his name wasn’t mentioned. Discouragement and despair were etched into his face.  An utter defeat.

 

As for me, I was pretty proud of my son. He risked what I all too often am afraid to do — failure. He made the car. Designed it. Entered it. And failed. The older I get, however, the more I want to protect myself and others from harm. There is little risk, but sadly even less reward.

 

Thankfully, my son once again reminded me that sometimes when you win you lose; sometimes when you lose you win. Though he is yet to think of Him this way, one of history’s biggest losers is someone we proclaim in faith to be the Messiah — Jesus. What a risk He took. Jesus had the transforming vision to image the Kingdom of God. In His person He lived it out so others could enter into it. So powerful was this kingdom of justice that He was brutally killed on a cross for it.

 

What a relationship Jesus must have had with God the Father, which allowed Him to risk everything, including failure, to bring forth the kingdom of God. It was this faithfulness to the will of God that led to His resurrection.

 

You and I know that communities, like persons, don’t like to fail. We’d rather protect ourselves. At what cost though? What privileges are we as Church afraid to let go for fear of failure? What truths are we hesitant to proclaim? Who are we anxious to stand by? What ministry are we cautious to begin?

 

What keeps me Catholic is that I have a son and belong to a church that, infrequent though it may be, risks failure and invites me in discipleship to Jesus to do so as well.

Daley is a freelance writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School.

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