Brotherhood

It all began on the frigid, dimly lit, evening of October 30th. It was my day off, and I was meandering down the streets of uptown Fort McMurray, jamming out to some Foreigner, when the inevitable call of nature hit. The call that all Canadians feel whether they like to admit it or not. The call to go to Tim Horton's.
Urgently desiring to escape the arid subarctic air, and to bring my core temperature back up a few degrees, I made a right and headed towards the nearby Tim Hortons. Upon passing through the gate and once again finding myself in that haven of warmth and sugary confectioneries, a thought bubbled its way to the surface of my brain: “I wonder if they have Hockey Cards.” Now at first, one might question the relevance of such a question...

The reason is twofold, firstly Tim Hortons sells little 3 card packs of Hockey Cards each year. Secondly, my teammate Luke had collect them all...all except for Artemi Panarin. Panarin, with his uncanny stealth, had evaded us since September, to the point where Luke had nearly amassed two copies of all the other available cards. I, on the other hand, just kept a copy of ol’ Henrik Sedin in my wallet (GO CANUCKS!). At this point, we had pretty much accepted that Panarin would remain hidden forever. All the stores had pulled down their advertisements and a couple of other Tim Hortons that we had checked were sold out of packs. But for whatever reason, I decided to ask.

“Hmmm, I think we might have 1 or 2 left….let me check,” kindly offered the cashier. “Looks like we have 6 left,” he remarked. So I bought ‘em all. At this point, my mind was racing with excitement. The last 6 packs in Fort McMurray. I couldn’t wait to open them, to see if I could find any more Canucks.

But that is when I stopped and thought, realizing Luke would enjoy the packs a whole lot more than I would. So I started to concoct a dastardly entertaining scheme, all while sipping tea like an ominous cartoon villain in a bowler hat. The victim: Luke. The plan: surprise presents. My plan started fairly simply: I took a picture of one of the packs and messaged it to Luke, saying I bought the last one in the store. I planned to give him the pack along with the other 5 that night when we got back to our host home. Unfortunately when he responded he asked what I got. At this point, he didn’t know I was going to give it to him, and I thought it would be best to keep the ruse going. So I opened it up, intending to give him whatever I got with the other 5 packs. That’s when I was greeted by the legendary faces of Carey Price, Alexander Ovechkin, and you guessed it. Artemi Panarin. I was agog, I was aghast, had Panarin been found at last? I knew that what I now held in my hand was something special. This gift was about to get kicked up to the next level. I bluffed asking Luke what card he was looking for, though I was well aware. After he responded I sent him a photo of the three cards in the pack, but I swapped out Panarin for my own Henrik Sedin Card from my wallet. And with that, the alibi was laid. As I continued to scheme I was inspired by an even greater plan. Now that Panarin was in my possession, I had the exciting climax I needed for my scheme to achieve its full theatrical brilliance. I planned to give each pack to Luke, one by one, in different and surprising ways.

I slipped the first under Luke’s dinner placemat when he wasn’t looking. After dinner, he began to clean his dishes, lifted his placemat to go wash it, and boom...Tim Hortons Hockey pack waiting for him. I had let the family we were staying within on the plan so they played dumb along with myself and my teammate, Sam. We told him that we had no idea where it came from and by the law of finders keepers, it looked like it was his. The second pack I slid under the bedroom door while Luke was inside skyping his family. I expected him to see it and wonder who threw it. Instead, it worked out even better. It somehow ended up in his suitcase and he found it when he finished the call, extremely confused how it got there. Once again we played dumb and reiterated the finders keepers law.

While he was on the call Sam and I set up the third pack. You see, we were carving pumpkins with the family we were staying with that night. Sam came up with the idea of putting it in his pumpkin. So we cut a small slit into the bottom of the pumpkin and pushed the pack into it from below. When Luke cut off the top of his pumpkin to scoop out the insides he was completely dumbfounded about how there was a pack of Tim Hortons branded hockey cards inside.

The next two I gave to our supervisors who each gave them to Luke pretending they happened to find them or buy them on their trip up to Fort McMurray and hoped someone would want them.

And finally, the last pack, the pack containing Artemi Panarin, was carefully resealed and tucked inside a box of Swedish berries, Luke’s prefered gummy candy. When we settled down to watch some TV, I set the rigged box a little bit closer to Luke than any of the other candies. And eventually, he grabbed it.

This is one of the countless stories of brotherhood that I have experienced this year. Now that word - brotherhood- might seem like an odd choice to use, but it is actually the perfect word. As Catholics, we believe we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. While serving on a NET team for the last few months, I have grown as close to my brothers on the team as I am with my own biological brothers. I think the word brotherhood - in the way it brings up images of family and my own brothers back home - beautifully captures both the joys and challenges we experience on the team. Brotherhood has been one of the greatest blessings I have received this year, as well as one of the biggest areas of growth. It is something that takes a lot of effort, but that is exactly what makes is so powerful.

Oddly enough, brotherhood shares many similarities with a Hockey Team. Players on a Hockey Team have a goal in mind, and in order to achieve that goal they work extremely hard to support, challenge, and honour their fellow teammates. As members of a NET team, we do the same.

Support

On a Hockey Team, all the players work together, each with a different role that is aided by the others. The forwards push for goals with the help of the defensemen who both keep the puck away from their net and try to pass it to the forwards. And the goalie, behind them all, is the last line of defence - always there ready to help in case anything goes wrong.

Just as they have each others’ backs, my brothers have always been there for me, and I for them. We support each other through hard times and celebrate the good times together. My brothers have always been right there ready and waiting to step in at a moment’s notice.

Challenge

If the players don’t have a game on one day you can bet they will have practice. During practices, the players are all seeking to improve their skills, and they can’t do it alone. The veterans share their years of experience with the rookies, and in turn, the rookies share new insights with the vets. They push each other to grow and improve.

I am always looking to grow in my faith, to grow closer to God, but I can’t do it alone. My brothers and I are all on this same journey, so we push each other to constantly go the extra mile. We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences, so we are uniquely equipped to help each other grow and strive for greatness beyond what we could do alone.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Honour

Another vital part of any team is being able to celebrate together, to honour one another’s achievements. You can see this in hockey when players huddle together and cheer for one another for scoring a goal. It is constant, for every goal scored, not just the big game-winning goals.

As brothers, we constantly make an effort to affirm each other on the many gifts and talents we have. We build each other up by having fun together, laughing together, learning about each other's interests, or as in the case of the story at the beginning of this article, going to extreme lengths for even the smallest simplest gifts.

The strength of brotherhood helps us so much in our ministry. Jesus himself started his church with the Apostles, a brotherhood that spent all their time together supporting, challenging, and honouring each other in their journey to follow Christ. Our brotherhood has grown to trust each other implicitly, just as I am sure the apostles did. We help each other reach out to the youth in ways the others can’t. We celebrate all the little blessings we witness. By having a strong brotherhood, we set an example for the youth of what strong Catholic relationships look like. Most importantly though, as all our ministry stems from our relationship with the Lord, we help each other grow in faith.