After I returned home from my mission I attended a single’s ward in suburban Washington D.C. in which we had an unusual sacrament meeting one Sunday. One after another ward members came to the podium and delivered the words of the children’s song “I am a Child of God,” each in a different language, a language they knew personally. The effect was surprising; all of us were unified—no one was left out from being a child of God, regardless of race, creed, sex or language.
My family experienced a similar surprise several years ago when we arrived at Yankee stadium for a ball game in mid April. We arrived in the middle of the first inning and, after a while, we became a little confused—all of the players were wearing the same number. It took us a little while to figure it out, and when we did the impact was big. Symbolically every player was Jackie Robinson; everyone was number 42.
Its rare in sports to see that kind of unity. In many ways sports is all about divisions. Its us versus them. Its competition to see who is better, someone wins and someone looses. The world that Jackie faced was like that too—it was us and not you, you can’t have what I have, you can’t drink from my water fountain, stay in my hotel, use my restroom, play on the same field where I play.
I went with my friend Steve to see the film 42 this morning, and in the theater we were transported to 1947. We experienced vicariously that tumultuous time, the hatred, the vitrol and the anger—and also the divisiveness. But by the end we also experienced a resolution. In the film, at the crucial point, Pee Wee Reese comes across the diamond to Robinson during the pre-game warmups and puts his arm around him, letting everyone know that he supported his teammate. He then said to Robinson, “Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42, that way they won’t tell us apart…”
Today, that is the resolution. We all wear 42, we are all children of God, and no one should tell us apart to make us less than one another.
Said like that it is perhaps trite. But when it appears on the field as player after player wearing number 42; when it shows up in sacrament meeting as speaker after speaker repeating “I am a child of God…” it has real impact.
Pee Wee Reese got it. Symbols like this are important.