Sunday, August 23, 2015

Generosity and David Lee

The "Back to School Night" poster for the Religious Studies department at St. Ignatius College Prep, where I teach features a head shot of every teacher and his or her favorite line from prayer. When we were asked to submit ours to the designer, I said mine without hesitation: "Lord, teach me to be generous."

I say this prayer—the opening line of the St. Ignatius' Prayer for Generosity—more often than you might think. At times, it is a near mantra. I utter those words when I need patience, when I am frustrated and when it's difficult to see the good in a student. This prayer opens my heart. The grace of this spirit  prompts me to give when I might want to take. The rest of the prayer is equally beautiful, but those six words speak to me, deeply.

I want to be generous. I have been given so much—I ought to be. My father once told me, "Anne, no one will ever think worse of you for being generous. They'll never say she's a horrible person for giving like that." I have never forgotten those words; they're true (but remember, a virtue works best as a mean. Excessive generosity is foolish and deficient generosity is miserliness). 

And yet I also know that true generosity develops when it's difficult to give...when I do feel like sharing, when no one is looking, or when I won't get any credit. This is where I need guidance from the Lord. Anyone can give from their excess, but true generosity comes when we are running on empty. When it would seem as though we have little materially or spiritually to give. I have found this prayer helps.
You would be surprised to learn what else helps me be generous: David Lee.

David Lee played with the Golden State Warriors for the past five seasons. The power forward made generosity look both easy and attractive. I want to be a more generous person because of what I saw in him.

When Lee was named to the 2013 All Star team, he was the first Warrior to earn that distinction in over 17 years! He was a critical reason that team made it to the second round of the playoffs—losing to the Finals Champions, the San Antonio Spurs. And yet this year, Lee suffered a strained left hamstring in the final game of the preseason, which sidelined him for 24 out of the first 25 games of the season. Lee was replaced in the Warriors' starting lineup by Draymond Green, who continued to start even after Lee recovered. The highest-paid player on the Warriors roster at $15 million, Lee became a reserve for the first time since early in his career.

It's hard to argue that Lee's misfortune didn't make way for an opportunity that might not have otherwise happened. Green was a force to be reckoned with throughout the regular and post-season. But what's striking to me is that amidst the struggle of frustration from injury Lee never once complained. He never went to the press to defend himself or call into question Coach Kerr's decision to keep him seated...on the bench...most nights...fully dressed. At one point in February, I wondered if Kerr forgot who about him. I didn't know if his injury lingered. It didn't. 
D-Lee had a new role on the team. It was strange; I scratched my head often. Whereas he once helped on the baseline, David Lee became his teammates' biggest supporter from the sidelines. That's generous.

Lee finally got some minutes in Game 4 of the Finals. Warriors fans saw the chemistry that Stephen Curry and he built together—the building block of teamwork that made this a group of champions. And when the Warriors captured the title, I couldn't help but notice D-Lee in his warm-ups, smiling, hugging and celebrating with his teammates—many of who were sweaty, tired and sore. I have no doubt Lee would have preferred to win in this way. But, a generous spirit is joyful and grateful, regardless.

Warriors faithful know that the team traveled to Las Vegas to celebrate the victory. David Lee picked up the tab.
Tickets went on sale for the 2015-2016 regular season games late last week. I got a call from a representative at the Warriors encouraging me to place my deposit for group seating. The Notre Dame Club of San Francisco attends one game each year. That day, I had but one question for Brian our rep: How was your lunch yesterday? 

Brian started laughing. Sports fans throughout the Bay Area were aware that before he left for Boston, David Lee had treated the entire staff to a lunch by Chipotle.

Lee signed a contract with the Boston Celtics and left us fans on the best of terms....and the people inside of Warriors operations—support staff, ticket agents, ushers—the people we never see, with full bellies and smiles of gratitude...if not a tear or two for fare thee well.

Whether or not it comes easily or with haste, generosity is a wonderful virtue. Generosity can take the edge off of a bad day. It can be tough to exercise, but it makes life just a little sweeter, doesn't it?  Next time you find it tough to be generous, offer a prayer and look to the example of an athlete like David Lee. He made generosity both fun and fulfilling. Thanks for a great five years. 

Photo Credits
Prayer of Generosity
Thank you D-Lee

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