Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Playing with Matches

I was playing Mahjong the other day and reflecting on the word ‘match’ . For anyone who doesn’t already know, mahjong relies on the matching up of tiles picked off of tiered stacks laid out in a design, in my case, planned by my computer.

There are all sorts of matches. There’re shoes that match. Colors that match.  And uniforms that match. These all set an expectation that two or more things will be exactly alike in appearance. Kind of like our twin daughters.

But, in point of fact, our twins are not complete matches. They have their differences. They started out pretty much a match, but as they’ve grown they’ve become more like coordinates, not exactly alike, but going well together.

Another kind of match can be found in fundraising. Publicly supported media is well-known for their matching funds challenges during their seasonal campaigns. Sometimes employers match funds that their employees donate to other organizations. Our church here is seeking to raise funds through a grant that requires we match whatever the grant provides. These are generally 1 to 1, dollar for dollar matches that essentially double the funds the organization raises.

Then there’s the kind of matching, or matching up, that some people like to do. Matchmakers, for instance, put together people they think will do well together in a marriage. Employment agencies match people and their skills to jobs that require filling. Some people work with ‘skill banks’ to match up people who have a certain skill with someone who needs that skill, either to provide a service to them or teach them the skill so they can provide it for themselves. Basically, matching a solution to a need. I like to do that. So does the priest I work with. We refer to it as connecting the dots, putting the right people together with others to solve problems. Networking.
A man I knew back in Nashville actually was one of those matches. He volunteered with children in the schools to teach them fundamental values. He taught them to understand and undertake values such as Art, Athletics, Academics, Attitude, Altruism, Creativity, Character, Music, and Perseverance. He let them know someone cared about them. At the school year’s end, he always held an assembly at which he placed a group of people on the stage, heroes he called them, role models to hold up to the children to emulate. Often these were everyday people who worked hard to contribute to the community in their own way, and it was these people’s example he wanted the children to follow. The song everyone sang at these events was called “Celebrate (You and Me)”. This man taught several generations of children not only to “Celebrate” but to say, with meaning and sincerity, “I Am Somebody”.

This man, Don McGehee, was an ordinary man with an extraordinary capacity to love by action. He was the match for the need in these children to value themselves and to live into being someone of value. 

It seems there is more than one way to match or be part of a match. Do you match someone? Is there a need you can match up to fill? Do you have a need that requires matching? Or is there some way we can all work together to match up and fill the many needs life presents?

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