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Crossroads of the Marine Corps

Love challenges

25 Aug 2016 | Lt. Curtiss P. Dwyer; CHC USN Command Chaplain , The Basic School Marine Corps Base Quantico

Fun as it had been, summer was ending. On a hot early August day, with fresh memories of barbecues, dirt motorcycle riding, hanging out with friends and camping, I oh-so-reluctantly pedaled my bicycle to my high school to register for classes. I was no longer a freshman, thank goodness, and I was registering on my own, without parents, for the first time. Almost (but not quite) 15, I was looking forward to choosing my own classes...

Algebra was a breeze…but I wasn’t a huge fan of math and, hey, no sense in overdoing it as a sophomore, right? The courses I picked were the usual, including “Jewelry Shop 101” (I needed a fine art), and the standard follow-on math class, Geometry. Satisfied, and riding home with my list of classes, I was looking forward to enjoying the rest of a rapidly evaporating summer, and then a school year free of too much academic stress. Easy day. Little did I know that I would be pedaling that same bike back to the same school the very next day, completely reworking my list of classes. What happened?

My Dad happened. See, when he got home that night and saw my list of classes, he was, let’s just say, not impressed. “Jewelry Shop” stood out to him especially. Now, my Dad was a verbal artist, and had a special kind of eloquence: His exact words were clearly selected so as to make plain to me his less than enthusiastic embrace of my course selection, and are perhaps best left out of a “Chaplain’s Corner” article. Not only was I going to drop Jewelry Shop, he said, but I was going to replace it with ANOTHER math class, the very next day.

Say what? I was stunned. My Dad is crazy, I thought. You can’t take two math classes at the same time – they’re supposed to build on each other, right? I’d never even heard of such a thing (and haven’t since). Yet, as I mentioned, he made himself quite clear. So, the next day I did exactly that…I dropped Jewelry Shop and registered into Algebra II, right alongside Geometry.

And you know what? I did quite well, in both classes. That move put me ahead in the math cycle, and so I would go on to study Calculus (for college credit) in my senior year. That, in turn, served me very well in a demanding engineering school in Colorado, from which I graduated a few years later. My fine art? Drawing, which I took my senior year, and had a blast.

I often wonder at what I would be in life if I had not been challenged along the way. More than once, Dad saw something in me, perceived a potential of which I was not aware, and called it forth. Yes, it was painful at the time and I did not understand. However, looking back, I could not be more grateful for what he did.

He and all those who have loved me enough to challenge me, who did not let me settle for “easy” when “excellent” was in reach. (Personal note: I love the moral teaching of the Catholic Church for the same reason.)

We want comfort; God wants us to thrive. We want easy; God wants excellent. We want control; God wants trust. We want status; God wants us to become. Thanks be to God.

Marine Corps Base Quantico