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

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