Be Courageous and Be Brave

Welcome to the Evertsberg’s home. Bill discusses the class of 2020, both in terms of what they’ve lost and the hope for the world they can help create.

Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg. I’m one of the pastors at Kenilworth Union Church, and this is Doogie, my assistant pastor.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a great story in The New York Times about Gruver High School in the Texas panhandle. It looks like Gruver is about ten miles from the Oklahoma border. Now, Gruver High is the anti-New Trier. Gruver, Texas is a farming community and the high school only has about 200 students. But Gruver has a 400-acre farm which they use to grow corn, which they sell to raise money for the high school seniors’ college scholarships.

The Gruver High athletes are called the “Greyhounds,” and in the first week of March this year, the girls basketball team won their first-ever Texas state championship, first ever in school history. The state tournament in Texas is played at the Alamodome in San Antonio, which is a 570-mile, 10-hour drive from Gruver. And so while the girls were winning their state championship, the boys stayed back in Gruver and won their regional final and after the game they all gathered in the locker room to listen to a radio broadcast on a cell phone of the girls game, and when the boys team found out that the girls had won the state championship, they erupted into a raucous celebration. It was Gruver’s own mini-March Madness. A girl named Camryn Armes, a point guard, was named the most valuable player in the state championship game in the Texas state tournament this year. All of this happened during the first week of March, earlier this year.

On March 12, the boys team had made their own 10-hour drive to San Antonio to compete in the first-ever Texas state championship in the boys program history. And so on March 12, the boys were practicing in a gym to compete in the state tournament when Governor Abbott shut Texas down and cancelled the tournament. Now Camryn Armes, that MVP point guard, had a brother named Connor who played on the Gruver High boys team, and Camryn had placed a lot of pressure on her brother Connor when she won not only the state championship, but also the MVP award. And Connor said, “I was going to do my best to equal that achievement, because if I didn’t, I would never live it down. I would never hear the end of it.”

Nine of the eleven players on the Gruver High boys team are seniors. They will never get another chance to compete for the first-ever Texas state championship for Gruver High School in Texas. Connor said, “I didn’t know my last game was going to be my last game.” And I share that story with you because it sort of gathers up for me everything that the class of 2020 has lost in the apex year of their entire education.

And so on Youth Sunday this past Sunday, I told the class of 2020 that I was very sad for all that they had lost, but also very proud of all that they’d accomplished, and very hopeful for all they had yet to do. I mean think about it. Think about the academic careers of the high school class of 2020.

How intense it’s going to be, how focused it’s going to be; it’s going to have an agenda, because the college class of 2024 will be more crucial and fraught than for instance my own education, which ended in 1981. The college class of 2024 is going to have more to accomplish and more to fix and more to figure out than any college class in recent American history, than any I can think since maybe what, 1940? The class of ’42, the class of ’44, the class of 1940 had to figure out how to defeat fascism and tyranny and the Holocaust.

And now the college class of 2024 is going to have to figure out how to help the rest of us live in a world which will be very different for a very long time, maybe for forever. And so it made me so hopeful to think of all these kids are about to do. I thought, you know some of these kids are going to be pre-med. Some of these kids are going to prepare for a career in nursing in the ICU or the ER. Some of these kids are going to study public health, or epidemiology, and maybe one of them will be the next Anthony Fauci, or Jonas Salk, or Alexander Fleming. Some of these kids are going to study engineering and maybe one of them will figure out how to invent a reliable $100 ventilator. Or figure out the software that will make driverless cars failsafe. Some of these kids are going to study finance and economics and help the rest of us figure out how to live in a smaller, tighter, simpler global economy. And some of these kids are going to study environment and forestry and marine biology and hydrology and meteorology and they’ll be ready to face the challenges of a warming world. Maybe one of these kids will be an entrepreneur like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg and create tens of thousands of jobs for other Americans.

And all of that made me so hopeful. And I told the class of 2020, the high school class of 2020, college class of 2024, that when they graduate in four years, the coronavirus will be wiped out, America will have figured out how to fix its broken healthcare system, the Dow Jones will be back up to 30,000 or beyond, the unemployment rate will be down to 3% like it was in February, the world will be very different from what it was on March 12. But it will be wonderful, and beautiful, and safe, partly because of what these kids are going to accomplish in the next four years, and the next twenty years, and the next forty years. And then, I gave them a Rod Stewart blessing. I said,

“May the good lord be with you down every road you roam.
And may sunshine and happiness surround you far from home.
And may you grow to be dignified, proud and true.
And do unto others as you’d have done to you.
Be courageous and be brave
and in our hearts, you’ll always stay
forever young.”

The Lord bless you and keep you. Amen.