The big event tonight was the soccer match between Germany and the Czech Republic. My father and I had an early dinner so we could watch it on TV.
I will always remember the Czech goalkeeper. He played an astonishingly good game; many times he prevented the Germans from scoring. His agility, courage, foresight, and iron nerves made him in my eyes the great hero. But in overtime, when the match was 1-1, he couldn't hold on to the ball that the German player shot into his hands, so he was the reason why the Germans, not the Czechs, received the European Cup from Queen Elizabeth. He will be remembered not as a hero but as the man who failed to give the Czech Republic its victory. While the Germans were dancing on the field, embracing one another, crying with joy, and raising their arms victoriously, this talented goalkeeper sat against one of the goalposts, his head buried in his knees. Nobody was there with him. He was the loser.
I feel deeply moved by the image of the defeated goalkeeper. All his great performances will be forgotten, in light of the one mistake that cost the Czechs the greatly desired European Cup. I often wonder about this "final mistake." After a long and fruitful life, one unhappy event, one mistake, one sin, one failure can be enough to create a lasting memory of defeat. For what will we be remembered? For our many acts of kindness, generosity, courage, and love, or for the one mistake we made toward the end? "Yes, he was fabulous, but he failed." "Yes, she was a saintly person, but she sinned." "Yes, they were great, but at the end they disappointed us."
Sometimes I think about dying before the great mistake! What if the "saints" had lived longer and had not been able to keep the ball in their hands at the final moment? Would such a small mistake have brought their saintliness to nothing? It frightens me to think this way. I realize that finally human beings are very fickle in their judgments. God and only God knows us in our essence, loves us well, forgives us fully, and remembers us for who we truly are.

Henri Nouwen.

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