Tuesday, October 30, 2012

San Francisco Giants: World Series Champions Who Promote Life

It’s the Giants vs. Dodgers.  I already missed the first pitch and my friend was waiting for me in our seats.  I was a good 20 minutes late.  In a hurry, I got inside the ballpark and sought an available usher for confirmation about how to get to my seat—stat! I spotted one standing near an elevator who said “Welcome to AT&T. How can I help you?”  Nearly out of breath I almost threw my ticket stub at him.  Calm and collected, he said to me “Can you just tell me where your seat section and seat number.”  I relayed the information about the Club Level; he told me precisely how to get there.  Perfect directions.  I marched to my seat and I started to cry. 

The tears weren’t because I was stressed out.  They weren’t because, well, I had been a little pushy.  No, they were because at the same moment this usher politely informed me he doesn’t see very well, I realized he is blind.  I was humbled.  Society might see what he can’t do.  The San Francisco Giants see what he can.
The month of October brings much to celebrate.  For the Giants, it began as the “Hunt for Orange October.”  And this year, orange trumped red—both Cincinnati and Cardinal red.  A four-game sweep in Detroit confirmed why this town deserved to be painted orange—from the lights on City Hall and Coit tower to every other shirt, scarf or tie. It’s not even Halloween—yet! 

In the Catholic Church, October is the month of the Rosary and most poignantly, Respect for Life month.  It is a time that we redouble our efforts to recognize and proclaim that human life is a precious gift from God. Blessed John Paul II wrote “Each person who receives this gift has responsibilities toward God, self and others. Society, through its laws and social institutions, must protect and nurture human life at every stage of its existence.”
A wide spectrum of issues touches on the protection of human life and the promotion of human dignity. As Pope John Paul II has reminded us: “Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias and discrimination, for human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation; it is an indivisible good” (The Gospel of Life, #87).

It may sound like a stretch, but I see the San Francisco Giants as an organization that is promoting the Gospel of Life.  The obvious example can be found among the many Giants who give their time charitable organizations like Not For Sale or St. Anthony’s soup kitchen.  Others use their celebrity status as a platform not for personal profit but as a means to leverage social support and generate interest in those groups.  But I appreciate that one need not leave the ballpark to see Respect for Life in action.  I met it first hand in the usher who helped me.  Perhaps you read about another in the article run in the Marin IJ “Giants World Series run provides aspecial finish to memorable season for mother-son ushers.
“Peter Magowan (former Giants managing general partner) was a big advocate (for creating opportunities for disabled employees),” said Rick Mears, team vice president for guest services. “It’s been a focus of the Giants for years. We have 40 or 50 positions around the ballpark that allow for disabled employees and we try to make sure they are all filled every season.”

Mears said Harry Siebert, the former director of guest services, was key in helping disabled employees excel with the team. Siebert died earlier this year after battling muscular dystrophy throughout his life.
“It’s still tough for me to talk about losing him,” Mears said. “Harry was here every day, sometimes 80 or 90 hours a week, in physical pain that we can’t imagine. He made sure it was part of his job to ensure that all (disabled employees) were comfortable and put in situations where they could succeed. He treated them like every other employee.  We couldn’t do this without them.”
The employee I encountered was put in position where he could succeed.  So is Ricky Carroll who with his mother Glenda has served as an usher at Giant games the past seven years.  For Ricky, 28, who is developmentally disabled, finding a job with the Giants has been a dream come true. When a liaison from Integrated Community Services in San Rafael asked him what kind of job he would like to find, he told them his dream job would be to work for the Giants. Ricky told them he wanted to be an usher.

The role of an usher is one I never take for granted.  A good one will ensure optimal experience for fans—their safety, viewing and overall enjoyment of the game.  I appreciate seeing folks who are retired taking pleasure in their work and assisting fellow fans as much as I enjoyed meeting Max, an usher with Downs Syndrome.  It appeared as though Max had never met a stranger.  He worked hard at both helping fans and at cheering for the Giants.  Whenever I see someone like Max, I am humbly reminded that he is a survivor. Although the numbers have been reported as high as 92%, Why So Many Babies are Still Being Born With Down Syndrome confirms that 60% to 90% of women who discover their child has Downs decide to abort.  The Gospel of Life affirms that life is a gift, a sacred one.  Max’s life IS a gift.  Who knew that when I go to a baseball game, I am humbly reminded of the wonders of this precious gift from unlikely people in unlikely faces. 

A Prayer for Life
Father and maker of all, 
you adorn all creation
with splendor and beauty,
and fashion human lives
in your image and likeness.
Awaken in every heart
reverence for the work of your hands,
and renew among your people
a readiness to nurture and sustain
your precious gift of life.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus
Christ, your Son, who lives and
reigns with you in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

Photo Credits
Orange October
Oct is Respect for Life Month
Jeremy Affeldt

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