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What it takes to have a better world

By Fr Stephan Alexander

General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR

A meme gaining popularity on various social media platforms places these words on the lips of Dawn Staley, the record-breaking head coach of the University of South Carolina 2024 NCAA championship winning women’s basketball team: “Problem is, y’all got league dreams with backyard work ethic. And your parents applaud it.” Coach Staley has since indicated via her official social media account on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the statement she actually uses with her student athletes is, “wanting to be a millionaire playing the game with a hundrednaire work ethic…bad math!”

For varying reasons, each of the above statements may have differing appeal to those of us reading them. However, it is important to recognise that both statements speak to the mismatch between aspirations and effort.

That is, they draw attention to the great dreams, goals and desires we have for ourselves, our children, our country etc. and the often inadequate amount of  work, sacrifice, and effort that we put out to achieve them.

As Coach Staley suggests, our math is bad if we don’t apply the required effort to ensure that our goals can be achieved.

I suppose that many persons would have read the opening paragraph in a limited context as being immediately applicable to the physical and other exertions required to achieve personal goals related to career, study, family etc.

However, I hope to broaden our perspectives to consider the applicability of Coach Staley’s “statements” to our spiritual aspirations and to our living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST).

Essentially, all of CST invites our focus to the dignity of each human person, which we must respect and prioritise as we seek the common good of all people. The application of CST principles requires us to understand that the way we live and interact with people, and society, must ensure that each person receives the means to achieve a material and spiritual life equivalent to the dignity they innately possess.

Hence, we firstly must understand that what we do or whatever we may give does not bestow dignity on others. Dignity comes from God! However, our tireless work must protect the dignity that each person received at conception.

This is possible only when our dreams reflect a communal or societal perspective because we understand that each person matters. They matter, not just to society in general or in some generic sense, but they matter to me, as a person, as someone worthy of love. This is the love that our Lord’s Resurrection demonstrates.

Most of us reading this article would say that we love and care for people. Most of us would aspire to be better people.

Most of us want Trinidad and Tobago and our world to be a better place. Most of us want better lives for our children. Most of us would state that we want to have a better relationship with God and ultimately to go to Heaven to be with God.

These are among our aspirations but what about our work ethic? Are we doing the work? Are we doing enough of it? Does our output match our aspirations? Are our efforts equivalent to our expectations?

We all want a better country but what are we willing to do to achieve this? Can the societal reality of Trinidad and Tobago, which reflects a lack of respect for life, especially the lives of children like Amarah Lalitte, be transformed if we “cry” at their violent deaths and then do little to change our reality?

Are we willing to do more than wear colourful socks or post photos and beautiful quotes in support of people living with Down’s syndrome and Autism in March and April annually?

Friends, many of us have stood before God and accepted the responsibility of training our children in the practice of faith so they grow to keep the Commandments by loving God and our neighbours. Yet we cultivate relationships with our children that demonstrate a lack of accountability for their spiritual and moral development.

As the rite of Baptism makes clear, love of God and neighbour is the essence of relationship with God. As parents and godparents, our primary goal in raising and educating our children is to ensure the development of their relationship with God. That relationship does not grow when we teach or allow them to isolate or alienate themselves from others.

It also doesn’t grow when we prioritise the accomplishment of secular achievements at the expense of spiritual development. It, similarly, does not grow when we attempt to strip persons of their dignity like so many of us have done to Amarah’s mother and her killer by the thoughts we’ve entertained about them since her death.

If we want a better world for our children, we must ensure they learn to love God and all people. The effort required to achieve this goal, and the other aspirations of our hearts, must be commensurate with the goal/level we hope to attain. To be a millionaire, we must have a millionaire work ethic.


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