Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Giving JOY on #GivingTuesday—Thank you, World Cup Soccer Fans

As they walked in from break, well over half of my students asked me if we could watch the USA vs Iran soccer match during class. They know I am a sports fan. I will admit I love the live experience. Reluctantly, I told them we had too much to do. However, our lesson on Advent sparked a conversation about #GivingTuesday and joy and made room for a few minutes of viewing time. USA 1, — Iran 0. Great wins!

At the start of class we prayed over the Advent wreath. As a way to teach about this holy season, I asked my students to "name a symbol or tradition associated with the Christmas season that is meaningful to you." One student said "decorating the Christmas tree." Another added, "opening the Advent calendar." Love it. And still another said, "I appreciate that this is a season of giving." I pointed to our boxes for our Christmas food drive and said "thank you for that example. What a great way to think about this time of year."

Perhaps she knew today is Giving Tuesday—a day of giving that follows three days of material consumption: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. But the article Giving Tuesday 2022 Is Today: What It Means and How You Can Help offers another insight. 

It's a great way for people across the country to think about their communities and to help those they don't know. Since its inception 10 years ago, the movement has raised billions of dollars for nonprofit organizations across the spectrum, whether it's for at-risk youth, the environment or pet adoptions.And while the money is incredibly significant, there are other ways to help besides giving cash: You can volunteer with a nonprofit, for example, or donate your old clothes to a shelter. You can even just be kind to your neighbor. 

Here, here.
I thought about the invitation to give in different ways. No doubt, giving kindness is a great gift...but I would like to suggest one other precious resource. While kindness may ask something of us, this costs nothing. It need not be in short supply, but too often it is. It's a theme of this season and it's worth passing on and sharing. It's a mentioned in many a Christmas Carol and it's what two of my colleagues brought to me by just being who they are. It's joy.

I walked into school today with a heavy heart. I went straight to my classroom only to see red, white and blue off in the distance. A long time coach and player, John came to school today in a former warm-up jacket from the US Men's National Team from the 90s. It's classic. 

He was talking to another colleague in the hallway about the match up of Iran vs. the USA, smiling ear to ear. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious. I turned around only to see Carlos in his jacket and I thought back to watching Womens' World Cup matches with the two of them in the summer of 2019. I think they arrived at the bar when it opened. 
I love the way that sports fans demonstrate their devotion and allegiance to their teams. My dear friend Eileen worse this repurposed face mask as a head band for game day. My friend and coworker Patrick wore one of the more handsome USA soccer jackets I have seen. He claims it was from the Gold Cup. As a sports fan, I am an easy target, but I also saw the smiles and joyful reactions from my students when I shared the photo of their teachers fired up, in anticipation of what each World Cup Match would bring. 

One student said "King!" I didn't understand what he meant. I said "I'm sorry, what did you say." He didn't want to answer. Another student explained what he meant. I still didn't understand. Members of the class laughed; I tried to move on. I couldn't. He said, "it's like saying they are icons. It's a compliment."

After class, that student came up to me and showed me the Urban Dictionary definition of "King."
Learning a new word, especially a positive one—a shout out like this brings me joy, too.

Joy is worth giving to others on #GivingTuesday and more. It is worth receiving, too. Thanks soccer fans!

Photo Credits none needed!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving: It's Both Caught and Taught

Today our nation observes a day for the sole purpose of giving thanks. Thanks be to God for that...and much more!

I was reminded of how great gratitude makes a person feel when I came home last Saturday to a card from the varsity girls' golf team at St. Ignatius. Though I have coached girls' golf in the past, this year I was simply a "friend of the program." I drove these athletes to several of their matches deep down the WCAL highway to South and East San Jose. In addition to a personal note from each golfer, I received a gift card for a local restaurant (way to support a local business). I was touched by their thoughtfulness and I let them know I am happy to help in any way I can.

Their gesture is not something I take for granted. Thanksgiving, thankfulness, appreciation and gratitude is something that is both caught and taught....and personally, I don't want to live in a world without it. We must model it and teach one another how and why it's important. It is. Whether or not that feels perfunctory does not matter. Saying "thank you" is always the right thing to do. 

The window between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an easy yet worthy time to extend gratitude everyone who makes our athletics programs go. 

Athletic directors: thank the men and women who run the clocks, keep book, work the gates, officiate and give their time so our athletes can compete. Ask student athletes to sign a card of thanks so they can understand the role others play—so that we can play.  You can delegate this task to coaches or to captains of teams to finish!

Head coaches: thank the athletic director and all those in the athletics office. Having been in that office, I know just how much happens behind the scenes. To thank these people is to be aware of what they do for you. Moreover, talk to your AD about how to recognize those who make your athletic programs go. You can delegate this task to coaches or to captains of teams. It's always good to be on the same page when it comes time to thank others.
Team Captains: make sure you have a card or gift for your coaches. No youth sports coach does what they do for the money or for a gift. We do it because we enjoy working with young people, we love sports and want to have fun. Let us know what you appreciate about our program or coaching style and method. Share with your coaches what is fun about working together. Remember, a little goes a long way. You can reach out to team parents for help with ways to extend gratitude to your head coach and all the assistant coaches.

The Gratitude Habitat reminds us

Two of the most profound words we have in our vocabulary are ‘thank you’. Gratitude is infinite and when we express our appreciation, we are, by definition, offering a prayer. When we are living and absorbed in the moment rather than confined by the past or worrying about the future, we open ourselves to everything around us. Sights, sounds, colors…everything is heightened. In turn, this enhanced awareness allows gratitude to flow freely. And when we feel truly grateful, giving thanks is the perfect expression of our appreciation.

Each day, say your prayers. Say ‘thank you’!

Prayer is something that is both caught and taught too. To teach and model saying thanks is to help another person pray. Meister Eckart said  If the only prayer you ever say in your life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice.

Amen. Happy Thanksgiving

Photo Credits

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Feel the Breath....World Cup 2022

This year's Thanksgiving already feels different. While there is the lifting of COVID restrictions, Americans are paying a steeper price for the family feast. Yes, American football will be played at many a turkey toss-up, and for the first time in eight years, U.S. fans have a rooting interest in the World Cup.

While US women's national soccer team have acquired a bunch of hardware since 2014 and in that time, the men's squad has transformed itself. It's a first World Cup for 25 of the 26 players who'll suit up in stars and stripes. In fact, the U.S. is tied with Ecuador as the second youngest teams in Qatar. 

In Special Series: The FIFA World Cup 2022, Tom Goldman's article, The 2022 World Cup in Qatar begins, warts and all addresses the question many of us have been asking: How might we embrace this wildly popular event? Should we? Thank you, NPR. 

In its first match, the U.S. faced a team that has been absent for 64 years. One that reminded the world with a 1-1 tie, that "we're still here!" The Welsh national soccer team is led by captain Gareth Bale and the head coach Rob Page.Thus, the purpose of this post is to share a living, breathing reminder of just how and and why it's hard not to embrace the World Cup (and full disclosure, I'm not a big soccer/football fan).

In case you have not heard for yourself or heard about it, Michael Sheen took it upon himself to remind sports fans, soccer enthusiasts and the people of Wales what might be possible.

I first heard the Welsh actor resound his barbaric yawp while driving to work and listening to my morning sports talk radio show. Murph and Mac, the cohosts played what I have posted here. Both men sat silent. No one knew exactly how to respond. What just happened? What did we just hear? 

I could feel the synapses flying in my brain as I began a personal inventory of any prior knowledge I might have to all things Wales. Capital city is Cardiff. Their language is unique—lots of LONG words. Tom Jones is a native son. So it Catherine Zeta-Jones. Maybe the poet Dylan Thomas too. Yes?

I felt as though I just heard a Shakespearean performance, a passionate plea that the British bard could have scripted over 400 years ago! 

As written by Hollywood Insider.

If Wales performs miracles at the upcoming soccer World Cup, then Michael Sheen may have played his own small part.

The Welsh actor has gone viral on social media for the second time in as many weeks for his rousing pre-tournament pep talks for the Wales men’s national soccer team as they enter final preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

In his speech, Sheen offers images and story. He references color and specific emotions. He reminds his countrymen who they are and from whence they came. It's spiritual.

The line that stands out among the rest for me his call: "Feel the breath.... on the back of your necks." 

The word spirituality comes from the Latin spiritus which means breath.  Where we feel the spirit, how we feel the spirit is worth paying attention to. Thank you, Michael Sheen for the opportunity to do that.

Shakespeare and soccer fans everywhere get it. 

Photo Credits
Sheen with Jersey
World Cup Team

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Forever Giants: Three Reasons to Celebrate Dusty Baker

I'm beginning to believe there's truth in the motto: Forever Giants.

I noticed the jersey retirement ceremonies of Barry Bonds and Will Clark were marketed and celebrated under the banner: Forever Giants. The orange and black welcome former players and successful teams—the '89 Giants, the 2002 Giants, 2010, 2012 and 2014 squads—back to the yard with these words. 

The Giants' 2022 season concluded on October 5 (some would say after being swept by the Dodgers in late August). However, for MLB it ended on Saturday night, November 5 when the Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 by a score of 4 to 1. Although the Bay Area is a long way from Houston, local sports talk radio celebrated loud and proud the manager who led this team to a World Series title: former Giants hitting coach and manager Dusty Baker. The joy and appreciation for the man from fellow Giants fans confirmed those words: Forever Giant are not just lip service. I'm proud to claim him as part of our past and this great game's present. 

Here are three reasons this Forever Giants is worth celebrating.

A Model of Perseverance 
At 73, Dusty Baker is the senior (read: nice way to say old) manager in MLB. He has managed two different teams in the World Series: the Giants and Astros and teams that nearly got there/should have gotten there: the Cubs, Reds and Nationals. Bottom line: it's never too late to pursue your dream.

Dusty said "But my mom and dad taught me perseverance. And you gotta persevere, you gotta believe in yourself." He did.

Baker was without a job from 2017 to 2020. He said, "I didn't know the time was gonna come when I couldn't got a job, but I knew if I got a job, the time was gonna come. You keep journeying, you keep hustling, and you keep staying with it."

Those words make a whole lot of sense now, but it was accepting this particular job was a huge risk. Following the Astros cheating scandal, the club that fired its manager and GM. He had to build something new. He had to help the team stay calm amidst the storms of ridicule and resentment, taunting and teasing, criticism and stay cool. When it comes to being calm, cool and collected, look no further than Dusty Baker. 

Paragon of Cool
What does it mean to be cool? Ever since I read Philosophy Now's The Human ConditionWhat Does It Mean To Be Cool? Thorsten Botz-Bornstein links Stoicism and Hip Hop. I've used the adjective sparingly. To be cool is to have a certain power, mystique and style. Like the word awesome, it ought to be used sparingly. Why? Because what is really cool is cool.

With a name like Johnnie B. Baker, Jr. being cool might be your birthright. The oldest of five, Dusty earned his nickname "from his mother because of his propensity for playing in a dirt spot in the backyard." For some reason, it's still cool.

Look at the paragon of cool: the toothpick, the brow-line glasses, his affect and posture, his laugh and even his managerial style. I'm not so sure about the black latex gloves, but the man is cool. No wonder so many former fans are drawn to him. 

But what makes Dusty super cool is that it's not about him. Cool is as cool does. Bo Jackson was cool. And like Bo, Dusty knows...

"I kept seeing those signs, ‘Do it for Dusty’ and the players were staying ‘Hey we’re gonna do this for you….' I was like 'Hey man, that's cool and everything, but let's do it for us, let's do it for the city of Houston and do it for hopefully all the stuff that we've been going through the last three years. Hopefully it's over.' You gotta let it ride. Because these guys are some good ballplayers. Great ballplayers."

The High Five
Although he was in on its inception, Dusty Baker did not invent the high-five. He gives credit to his former Dodger teammate, Glenn Burke. Baker said "Did I invent the high five? No! All I did was respond to Glenn."

He added "sometimes you don't know why you do the things you do, especially when you're extremely happy—you just respond to each other." That's part of how the high five was born....but there's more to it. The 30 for 30 short "The High Five" says it all. 

I told my students about this. Many paused and one had the courage to say, "wait, someone invented the high five? That wasn't always around?" I knew someone--just one student--was actually listening. His realization was on point.

I said, "I know, but you and I only know a world where high fives are a reality."

I then realized but the fist bump wasn't always around in the way it was now. I mentioned this and said, "I love a good "pound it." 

Someone added, "I guess people just shook hands in the past." I said "but there are all kinds of hand shakes too, aren't there?!"

Another student said "well, what gesture do you prefer, Ms Stricherz?" I said "In honor of Dusty, the high five!"

Dusty couldn't get any cooler.

In Conclusion
Schools, universities, sports teams and organizations have mottos. Some have great ones. For example in Jesuit education we claim to be "men and women for and with others." We aim to "find God in all things" and study, work and play "for the greater glory of God. AMDG." But what good is a motto if the words ring hollow? We must hold one another accountable to live up to what we proclaim. Our word is at stake. And for a group—in this case a professional sports team—why should it be any different? 

To be a Giant is to be Forever Giant. Baseball fans, that's just one more reason to stand behind the orange and black!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

How Do You Show Appreciation? A Lesson from Jimmy G and the O-Line

A good story offers more than a laugh or a shared memory. As someone who collects stories, I have come to believe the best ones spark a realization or reveal a truth. I try to share a story in such a way that it prompts students to think critically and creatively. I find this to be a worthy challenge. It energizes me. I invite always invite students to respond—openly, honestly and authentically. When I share a good story, teacher and student might have more questions than answers. And the story of a dinner attended by the offensive line of the San Francisco Forty Niners is a great example. 

Offensive guard Aaron Banks was drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. In spite of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Banks was featured on local sports talk radio KNBR as the Niner player of the week. As both a product of the Bay Area and linesman for Notre Dame, I couldn't help but lean in and listen to his story. And yet, in true offensive linesman style, the interview with Murph and Mac became less and less about his story and much more about others who have had an influence on him. One person who got a special shout out was Jimmy G.

As the interview was winding down, Brian Murphy said "My last question is about Jimmy. He's known as a being friend to the O-Line. Can you share anything about that? How has it been blocking for him and being in the huddle with him?"

Banks spoke without hesitation. As the listener, it was easy to believe him when he said. "Jimmy is a great guy." (smile in his voice) 

He added, "One night the O-Line went out to dinner at The Greenbrier. We kept saying "rookies are going to pay, rookies are going to pay. By the time we got to the end of the dinner we found out from the waiter, your quarterback picked up the tab. And we said ah damn, that's huge! It's little things like that—he's always thinking of the next guy, especially the O-Line as we do our best to protect him." 

I have heard of athletes doing what Jimmy G did before. I know that he gave the O-line a pair of Bose headphones last Christmas. And yet, this story of paying for someone else's meal got me thinking a little more.

I said to my students, "These men make millions of dollars a year. All of them can afford the meal they ate, so What's the big deal? Why is this even a story?"

Most students recognized the value in showing appreciation. Another picked up on what Banks said about the little things. She said, "for them an expensive meal might be a little thing...but it's something he made happen." Another student cocked his head and added "it's sort of like Jimmy is saying I got you and that's important, given his role on the team."

I concluded this story telling session seeking additional insights on the many different ways we can show appreciation.

I added "some of you are too young to remember a San Francisco before we had one, let alone three World Series trophies. You may have heard the manager of those teams, Bruce Bochy just took a job with the Texas Rangers. Regardless, I hope that man never pays for a meal anytime he is in the Bay Area. Ever. Please remember that."

As much as I enjoyed sharing this story with my students, I realized I was asking the wrong question. The question shouldn't be Why do the players care? Or, why does an athlete share this story? No, the question I am now considering for myself is Why do I care? Why do I savor this story? Why did it make me smile? 

I think the answer is simple: the unique and unexpected ways we express appreciation, gratitude and thoughtfulness is a timeless message worth sharing. A story is the vehicle. To have a good one costs nothing and is worth giving away.  

Jimmy Garrapolo celebrated his 31st birthday on Tuesday, November 2, 2022. I imagine he went out to dinner to celebrate and someone else picked up the tab. If there's a story there, pass it on....

Photo Credits
Jimmy and guys
Jimmy and O-Line