Monday, September 25, 2017

What I've Learned from Pro-Athletes and My Pastor....

Although you can place a bet on who will win the tourney, most patrons—including yours truly—anticipate the American Century Golf Classic for the remarkable setting, the 17th hole antics, the list of celebrities and the chance to interact with them. Indeed, the four-day event is a sports fan's paradise. One can get up close and personal with former MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA and tennis greats. We fans don our team colors, jeer at the enemy—no matter how long ago the rivalry took place—and marvel at the height, fitness, athleticism of the players...or what's left of it. But, what keeps me talking about this mid-summer classic, weeks, months and years later, isn't who won and by how many strokes (ok some women in my group do...Mark Mulder is now a three-time champion). Nor is it the planned and unplanned shenanigans, although I have to admit a few are highly entertaining. No, it's the human touch. It's what happens when the people we admire and appreciate connect with one another and with us. And, I've noticed, once you have you make a point to find "a little of that human touch," you'll see it everywhere.
How's that? It shouldn't be a surprise that sports fans arrive at this tourney with memorabilia, hungry to get it signed by some high-profile athletes (in recent years, that includes Steph Curry, Andre Igoudala, Aaron Rogers, etc). However, fans are prohibited from bringing in
  • Sports Memorabilia or Collectibles (jerseys must be worn or they will be confiscated)
  • Baseballs, Basketballs, Footballs or Hockey Pucks
Consequently, most fans seek out an opportunity to take a photo or selfie, an autograph on what they are wearing and/or shake their hand. Typically, the fan initiates the encounter; I am impressed by how gracious and engaging the celebrities are with the men, women, teens, and kids who come their way. This outreach, however, is not always a one-way street. My crew has a few stories but Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young comes to mind.
So I'm just a little big of a fan of this group...Tim Brown ND '87 and 49er legends Steve Young and Jerry Rice
When I see the lefty, my mind feasts on memories of Young to Rice for a touchdown...for a win...for the Super Bowl championship. Young loves playing in the tourney with Jerry Rice and another NFL friend or former foe. This is an easy group for fans to follow, especially Bay Area brethren, as they are spirited and enjoy one another's company.

It's not an understatement to say that being a great QB requires astute vision. I saw that in action beyond the football field at the tourney when Steve Young caught sight of a 10-year old boy on crutches among the throng of fans. He looked at this young man with this gaze that indicated he had been there before...he understood what it meant to break a bone...to be injured...to be less mobile and in pain. Young initiated the contact and extended that human touch. He put his arm on the boy's shoulder. I don't know what they talked about...I don't need to. The heart understands. And as Steve Young walked away, this boy's smile said even more. I think some internal healing took place.

I was reminded of this small act of kindness just Sunday at mass when I sat behind a man whose foot is in a sophisticated cast and boot. He too walked into Church on crutches and sought out a pew that allowed for easy access and space for his leg. I realized taking communion might be difficult for him. It wasn't. When the time came for the congregation to line up. the pastor left the front of the line to bring the Eucharist to an elderly couple sitting toward the back. They are rather immobile—no matter. Father Ken brought Christ to them....and then he offered Jesus' body to the man sitting in front of me...and to another elderly person. In fact, he does this at every Mass, I just needed to connect the dots. This simple act isn't difficult to do. It requires vision and perhaps some empathy, but what happens in the process of extending a little of that human touch is some sort of healing.


What that each of us were to go out of our way for the elderly or injured? What if we were to reach out to those who are broken and in need of healing first? What if we made time for the immobile and those in pain by simply extending a little human touch. And it's not the sole responsibility of the pastor of a parish or a pro-athlete (although it is—as we look to their example). No, this is a call for all Christians. Such actions are what the Gospel proclaims and reveals: it is in the giving that we receive....in serving we are served. Let us all in these divisive times, make some gesture of outreach to one another. 

Photo Credits
Great 3 man group

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