I REMEMBER the day I met Jim Valvano. For those readers who are not followers of college basketball, Valvano was the charismatic coach of the North Carolina State Wolfpack, a team that surprised everyone by winning the 1983 NCAA championship. It was my good fortune to spend some time with this prominent coach in the winter of 1985, and something he said on that occasion made a lasting impression on me.
Now how did it come about that I had the privilege of meeting a man of Valvano’s stature? Well, it was like this: my son, Jonathan, was a pretty good high school basketball player and was being recruited by a number of colleges, including N.wwC. State, whose ace recruiter was Tom Abatemarco (in the spring of 1986, Coach Abatemarco would be the speaker at Delhi High School’s All-Sports Banquet). Our family was spending the Christmas vacation with our parents in North Carolina, and while we were there, Abatemarco arranged for Jonathan, Jonathan’s grandfather and me to attend a practice session and watch the Wolfpack work out.
After practice, we met some of the players and then were invited to spend some time with Coach Valvano in his office. It was there that he said the words that greatly elevated him in my esteem. He showed Jonathan the two rings he was wearing – on his left hand was his wedding ring, and on his right, the NCAA championship ring. Referring to the NCAA ring, he said, “This was the hardest to get, but” and then he pointed to the wedding ring and continued, “this one is the most important to me.” The truth of what he affirmed that day was borne out several years later when, as Coach Valvano struggled with and finally succumbed to cancer, the love between him and his wife was so clearly evident. The ring on his left hand represented something of inestimable value; his wife and his relationship to her were more important to him than was the National Championship – that speaks so much to my heart! Unfortunately, not everyone has such a high set of principles. In fact, we might all do well to ask ourselves, “How do my values stack up against those of Coach Valvano?”
Such self-examination is important, because having proper values is a key to enjoying a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. Sadly, many lives are empty and devoid of genuine happiness, because poor values result in a person pursuing that which ultimately does not satisfy. So, may I ask you, what in your life do you value most, and are you content with your value system?
For instance, as parents, are we more concerned that our children secure jobs that will provide them with lots of money and prestige, or do we want for them a vocation that will give them the opportunity to use their God-given talents in a role that is satisfying and that affords them a way of ministering to others?
And how many individuals do we know who have paid a heavy price by valuing the immediate gratification offered by alcohol, drugs or sex more than the satisfaction that results from a disciplined embrace of a principled life. This cost of poor values ranges from great financial loss and broken health to the even greater loss of hope. You see, poor values lead to bad choices that often result in devastating consequences. We all are acquainted with people who, because of flawed values and poor choices, are living lives that are far from gratifying. Let us understand this–what one values makes a big difference in the kind of life he leads and in the quality of that life.
The wisest, most loving person who ever lived gave this mandate: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” It has been my observation that those who try to follow that directive by seeking to please God with a life that is shaped according to His values are among the happiest, most contented, and most successful people that I know. And I recall, with sadness, others whose memories are plagued by poor choices and missed opportunities–friends or family members who are experiencing life that affords little happiness and who have scant prospect that things will improve.
So I encourage us to do a “ value check.” And if the values that we embrace are not leading us down a path of fulfillment and genuine contentment, let’s start making some changes. Jim Valvano showed real wisdom with regard to what he valued–may we be as wise as he.