Last month, I went to my first Golden State Warriors Championship Parade, held in honor of their recent sweep at this year’s NBA Finals. I was up at the crack of dawn, and my husband and 5-year-old, along with my sisters, cousins, and their families piled into three cars and made the hour-plus trip to Oakland.
Upon arriving, we staked out the perfect spot for the best view of the parade. We ended up standing near a family who was there even earlier than us. Based on their experience from last year, they had an intricate strategy for optimizing their viewing experience. In other words, a guarantee that no one else would move in on the spot that they had arrived at 5:45 a.m. for. Blankets were laid out, camping chairs were brought in. They had claimed their spot and weren’t going to budge.
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At first, I was annoyed. What gave them the right to box us out when we’d just been on a harrowing journey to get there too? (I may be slightly exaggerating the nature of the trip, but still.)
Then slowly, I noticed them quietly inviting people around them (who they’d just met) to stand with them.
First, it started with a quiet elderly woman who hadn’t moved from her spot since we’d arrived. She held a plastic bag in her right hand and looked resolute and ready to stand there for the four(!) hours we had left before the parade started. They asked if she wanted to sit with them.
Then, they asked if the kids in our group wanted to stand right in front, next to their kids.
A few hours passed. More people started to trickle in, and then the pushing began. Those of us who were awake before 5 a.m. began growing resentful of those latecomers who were attempting to elbow their way to the front.
I just endured Bay Area traffic and sardine-like conditions in a standing-room-only BART train — during rush hour — just so I could have this spot.
You didn’t put in the work that I did to get this view.
I WAS HERE FIRST.
In the midst of the shoving and chaos, I was reminded of the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The morning workers, irritated after finding out they were paid the same exact wage as those who had arrived later in the day, grumble to the landowner, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat” (Matthew 20:12).
I hear echoes of my own irritation with the sun beating down on us and exhaustion setting in. And as I reflect on that moment, I wonder how often those of us who have been Catholic all our lives have unknowingly made those who were seemingly “late” to the party feel inadequate, like they didn’t measure up, like they weren’t “Catholic enough.” Those who, by any number of choices or circumstances, did not hear or respond to God’s persistent invitation until later in life. Those who may not have grown up in the Church, whose eyes have just been opened to their unique role in the Body of Christ, but who have every right to be there in the vineyard with you, working alongside you — all because of God’s generosity.
How blest are we to know a God who is so generous that even if we show up at the last minute, we are shown mercy and offered salvation?
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What kind of Church would we have if we were all like the landowner? Making space, widening the circle, noticing people on the margins, our lives an embodiment of God’s constant invitation.
The championship parade itself was pretty amazing. Seeing everyone from different walks of life come together and find a reason to celebrate — that in and of itself is a work of the Holy Spirit.
My favorite memory was right before Steph Curry (the player who changed the game with his insane three-pointers and every 10-year-old’s favorite basketball player) was about to go by, and one of the women in the family turned around and noticed that I was getting smashed into the backs of their camping chairs by more and more latecomers. She made eye contact with me, pointed at me, and told me to stand in front of one of their chairs. And she saw my sister and her son standing near them and told them to move closer, announcing to everyone around them: “They’re with us.”
And in that simple gesture, I experienced Christ, who in the times in our lives when we’ve felt pressed in, felt like an outsider, or been without shelter or a safety net looks each of us in the eye, points to us, and says, “You’re with me.”