There’s a famous motivational story about two salesmen from competing shoe companies who are sent to a foreign company to assess the market for shoes.
The first salesman scouts around for a few days and then goes to the telegraph office to contact company headquarters. He writes: Research complete. A disaster. Natives here don’t wear shoes.
The second salesman does his research and heads for the same telegraph office. Once there, he composes the following: Research complete. Glorious marketing opportunity! Natives here don’t yet wear shoes!
The message of the story is pretty clear: opportunity is there if you recognize it.
Students, as we begin this new year together, opportunity is here at JPII if you recognize it and take advantage of it.
Seniors, just one more year, and it will be one of the quickest of your life—it will seem like a blur before you are receiving your diploma at the Grand Ole’ Opry, dressed in cap and gown. Juniors, you’re now upperclassmen and are entering into upper level electives in what students tell me is our most challenging year. Sophomores, it was just a year ago that you sat in this auditorium for the first time, nervous about beginning here, unsure of yourselves, but it’s different now—and one of the big things that will happen is that most of you will be getting your license, no longer tethered to your parents, able to get around yourselves—a significant breaking away. Freshman, I know you’re nervous, unsure, everything is for the first time, new, uncertain.
No matter which year you’re in, though, you have an opportunity this year—an opportunity to make yourself a better friend, a better student, a better Christian, a better person. You can do that first, I think, by recognizing the extraordinary opportunity you have at JPII. It’s easy to be the critic, and God knows, our world is full of them! They sit on the metaphorical sidelines of life criticizing everyone who has the courage to play in the game. They nitpick and complain, always pointing out the deficiencies in others. Don’t be the critic in the bleachers—be the player on the field. Get “in the game.” JPII is an extraordinary school, with amazing teachers and amazing students. Soak up everything this school has, whether you’re in your last year as a senior or first year as a freshman. Be grateful for what God has given you here, and show that gratitude by pushing yourself and challenging yourself to be all that he hopes you will become.
We are the Knights. There’s a lot of rich symbolism that goes with the idea of knights, and many colloquial expressions that date back to the middle ages concerning the knights. No doubt you’ve heard the expression: “He was a Knight in Shining Armor,” referring to a person who acts chivalrously, coming to aid of another, usually a damsel in distress, in a gallant and courteous manner.
An expression which is particularly interesting is “throwing down the gauntlet.” A gauntlet was considered an important piece of the armory of knights, which covered their hands and forearms in a kind of glove like fit, protecting a very vulnerable area if they were engaged in hand to hand combat or sword fights. By tradition, when a knight challenged other knight to a fight, he would take off one of the gauntlets and throw it at his competitor’s feet. If the second Knight bent over and picked it up, it symbolized that he was accepting the challenge—thus “throwing down the gauntlet” meant you were being challenged to a fight and picking it up meant you were “all in.”
Here’s the thing. When we were younger, our parents carried us. When we first learned to walk, they were there to catch us when we wobbled. When we first learned to ride a bike, they ran behind us to keep us from crashing. But as we have become older, we have learned how to walk and ride bikes on our own. This is how it should be. As scripture says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned as a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways ways behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11).
This place will challenge you. This place will at times, frustrate you. In a very real way, it may feel like your teachers are throwing down the gauntlet at your feet, challenging you to a fight. Your parents, as much as they might want to, can’t be the ones that pick up the gauntlet for you.
Recognize the opportunity this place provides for you. Pick up the gauntlet—accept the challenge. Fight the fight. Don’t be the one that watches from the sidelines.
May God bless you and give you an incredible year.