In one sense, it was a tennis match like any other tennis match.
In another sense, it was a tennis match that took on a life of its own even before it had started.
Coco Gauff at 15 years old had captured the hearts and imaginations of the United States. She had made it to the fourth round at Wimbledon. And now she was in the third round at the U.S. Open, facing the number one seed in the world, Naomi Osaka, a veteran at 21. You could hear and feel the excitement in the stadium.
Life has a way of painting a different picture than we might expect or desire. Osaka beat Gauff in straight sets: 6-3, 6-0. After all, Naomi is presently considered the best in the world, and she played as if she was.
But the story did not end there.
With Coco in tears at the end of the match, Naomi went up to her, hugged her, and had her come to the post-match microphone with her. As Naomi tells the story, she knew that the crowd had come to see Coco. And though Naomi knew that Coco was hurting with the loss, she wanted Coco to address the fans, feel their support, and know that she had done well.
It was perhaps the most incredible show of sportsmanship that I have seen in a long time.
We live in a world in which we are trained to see the negativity, the division, the despair. Yet, examples of hope and love and unity surround us all the time if we but take the time to look.
Paul tells the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5)
In that post-match interview, Naomi Osaka exemplified what humility is all about. She showed what it means to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.
In so doing, she encourages me to look for those examples of humility and kindness as I move through my day. She encourages me to shower others with random acts of kindness, reach out to those who are hurting, to be the face of Jesus to those I meet.
And when we look for those examples of love, when we become those examples of love, be ready for what can happen to our lives. Be ready for what can happen to our world.
It might all just start with a tennis match that shows us all how to be with one another.