When Shalom and Soccer Collide:
Because We Seek Shalom Within and Without
If you have been following Urban Mosaic for a while, you know that sometimes we just can’t find the right word in English. Today is one of those days.
In Spanish, there’s this word: “convivencia.” The literal translation is “coexistence” or “conviviality” but most of the time convivencia refers to something that could be translated as a fun, social event, team building, or doing life together in a cooperative way.
As is true in most of Latin America, Mexicans take their soccer games very seriously, even when it’s just for fun. So while the intense and competitive elements of soccer might seem like a contrast to the concept of Shalom, this week we saw soccer and Shalom collide through the sweaty, sunny, laughter-filled cheers of UM’s first all-team convivencia.
"Of course, this is Mexico, so what better way for people to connect than through soccer?"
Diana is always smiling, and today is no exception. “Yesterday we hosted a small convivencia where we brought together the entire UM team so that everyone could connect and get to know each other a little more,” Diana said. “And, of course, this is Mexico, so what better way for people to connect than through soccer?”
Diana is 27 years old and joined UM’s Human Resources department in April. She added with a giggle, “We hosted a little soccer tournament for the Urban Mosaic staff. We didn’t really expect everyone to show up, but in the end… everyone attended, and we all participated!”
“Yes, yesterday was so incredible,” added Sergio, one of Urban Mosaic’s interns.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting the day to be so fun, but it really was. It was impactful to me because I never thought I would find an organization like this…we do sports together as the staff? Wow. This is the first time I’ve experienced anything like this within an organization… In other places where I’ve worked, the company really didn’t care about investing in the team. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
"a day of healing and recuperation."
Luis, age 20, has worked in Urban Mosaic’s IT department for two years. He chimed in: “There was a women’s match, a mixed match, and then a men’s match. It got a little intense towards the end because all the guys are so competitive. Today, we all arrived at work feeling really tired and sore… but, in spite of that, it was still a really fun day yesterday.”
Luis paused to think for a minute and then added, “Recently there have been a lot of changes in Urban Mosaic…Yesterday was a day of healing, a day to help recuperate as a team. It’s really cool to see the leadership care about the team in this way. They care about our well-being, and that feels so good. You know, sometimes it can feel like there’s a lot of distance between the different departments of the organization; like the office is one team and the field staff is another team. Bringing everyone together the way we did yesterday matters because it helped connect and unify the team in a deeper way.”
While corporate events or team building activities have become common practice in U.S. companies, the practice is not as common in many Latin contexts. “Unfortunately, sometimes in a large organization, we stop caring about our colleagues,” commented Diana. “A convivencia is really healthy — for each individual person and also for the well-being of the entire organization. What came of yesterday's event was more camaraderie. Team building days help us to see each other as humans and to walk together more closely.”
a "Both-and" moment
While soccer is intense and competitive, and Shalom is typically associated with peace and harmony, this week’s convivencia was a “Both-And” moment. There was fierce competition and a new sense of unity. There was intrepidation as the matches got started and lots of laughter. And, of course, at the end of the day there were lots of hungry soccer players and fresh carnitas tacos (this is Mexico, after all).
“Yesterday I could see Shalom in the faces and expressions of every individual. Everyone’s faces were glowing with peace, tranquility, and fellowship. Activities like yesterday help the team to practice and live out our values. It was an investment in practicing what we preach,” Diana commented. “When someone feels like their organization cares about them, they will be more motivated and want to work harder. Urban Mosaic seeks Shalom in vulnerable communities, but we have got to seek Shalom from within too, within every person who works here.”
As Luis put it: “They say that Shalom has different characteristics… but two of them are harmony and love. Yesterday we took time to invest in the Shalom of our team, and it was so worth it.”