“You need to watch this,” my husband told me as he clicked play on the television in our living room.
It was a news piece covering the story of Kevin Durant, the NBA star who was recently awarded one of the league’s highest honors when he was named this season’s MVP. You don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate what Durant said as he thanked his teammates, and especially when he thanked his mother, Wanda Pratt, who raised Durant and his brother Tony on her own. Durant thanked his mom for being tough, for challenging him and his brother, for keeping them off the streets, and especially for the sacrifices she made for them.
I dare you not to tear up when he tells his mom at the end, “You’re the real MVP,” and the room gives her a standing ovation.
I read that Wanda wore sunglasses for the rest of that day, and I don’t blame her. I practically needed to myself after witnessing that moment. But what makes us cry when we witness moments like these? What is it about Durant’s heart-felt appreciation for his mom that touches something deep inside all of us?
We cry when we encounter beauty and truth, and the beauty and truth we encounter here is that of a mother’s heart.
In his 1995 Letter to Women, St. John Paul II eloquently describes the beauty of a mother’s heart and the feminine gift that every woman is called to be to her family, her community, and the world at large.
“Necessary emphasis should be placed on the ‘genius of women,’ not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day, women fulfill their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity, and there is constantly revealed in the variety of vocations that beauty — not merely physical, but above all spiritual — which God bestowed from the very beginning on all and in a particular way on women.”
It is important to note that St. John Paul II does not differentiate among women with various callings when he talks about every woman’s “feminine genius” and “motherhood,” which he calls every woman’s vocation. This is because, regardless of her state in life, every woman is called to be “mother” to those God places in her care. Every woman is called to sacrificial love as she uses her feminine gifts in the service of others.
Mother’s Day can be an emotional and tricky holiday for some of us to celebrate. Those who have disappointing or painful relationships with their own mothers, those who long to be mothers themselves, and those who have experienced loss in their own motherhood all approach this day with an understandable level of hesitation.
But this year, I want to encourage all of us to celebrate Mother’s Day with renewed appreciation for the dignity and worth of every woman, with gratitude for the beautiful gift of every woman’s feminine genius, and with acknowledgment of the debt every one of us owes to the generous women God has placed in our lives.
Kevin Durant’s mom is “MVP” and every woman God created is called to be “MVP” as well. MVP moms don’t perform amazing feats on basketball courts. They notice small needs and meet them. They see others with what St. John Paul II called “the eyes of the heart.” They make quiet, unseen sacrifices in the hearts of their homes and in the intimacy of relationships with those they love.
Thank you, God, for MVP moms like Wanda Pratt who remind us of the dignity and worth of every woman. Thank you for the gift of every woman’s feminine genius — that quiet, hidden strength with the power to change the world.