At a recent retreat for youth ministers in the Archdiocese of Denver, Fr. Brady Wagner showed us a video from a series called, “The Long Game.” Feel free to watch with the link provided, but the gist of the episode is that there are hidden years of Leonardo da Vinci’s life where he ran into failure, after failure, after failure.
We all remember da Vinci for paintings like the Last Supper - a timeless success. What this video points out is how those hidden years that many people don’t know about were the very key to his greatness.
In our world today, we are receiving constant, relentless pressure to succeed, to rise above everyone else as quickly as possible. Make money, win awards, get noticed. Are those what make a person great? Is the Last Supper what really made da Vinci great?
I propose another form of greatness. It’s not new or original, by any means; at best, it is a reminder. As I write this, I find the timing about midway between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. This post not landing on either, I feel at liberty to recognize both. Ha!
Day in and day out, for the last 31 years (as of July 19, 2017), my mom and dad have obliged themselves to the selfless duty that is parenthood. Food, clothing, shelter, education, birthday celebrations, graduations, baseball games, football games, piano recitals, vacations (with kids fighting in the backseat of the car more often than not)...the list goes on. Failures along the way?
Ask them. They will tell you there are things they wish they would have done differently. But what was their greatest of works? It was the achievements of their children. The days when the spotlight was on us. This is the great hidden life.
None of those achievements would have been possible if not for their daily sacrifice. Every day that my dad went to a job that he didn’t like because it put a roof over our head and food in our stomachs; every morning that my mom got us kids dressed and made us breakfast and lunch, and dinner in the evening; these daily actions - and so many more - that all too often go unnoticed, these are what made them great.
There is no longer game than parenthood. As my wife and I approach the midway point of our first pregnancy, I hope for nothing less than the best for our child. I hope that I can be half the parent that my mom and dad have been for me and my brothers and sister. When we seek things like money, fame, accolades, our greatness depends solely on the outcome of our actions; it depends on what someone else thinks of what we have done.
The freedom of parenthood is that greatness comes from what is actually in our control: it comes from our daily decision to put our lives at the service of another. Thankfully, we still have set aside at least a day for mothers and fathers, to recognize the love and devotion they give to their families every single day.
To moms and dads everywhere: thank you for playing the long game.