When I was planning this project for November, I was surprised to find that Thanksgiving was one of the hardest days to fill. I know that people like to give back on Thanksgiving Day and I attributed my scheduling issues to this fact. It’s serendipitous that while I was planning 30 days of volunteering, I had the opportunity to hear an excellent keynote speaker.
Bill Courtney deciding to take on coaching responsibilities for the Manassas High School football team. He took on a team who lost every game and turned them into one of the best football teams in the city. What makes this story even more incredible is that the story was turned into an Award-winning documentary called Undefeated. But it was not an easy road.
Coach Courtney explained that about half of the students responded to him and his coaching – their game improved on the field and their grades improved off the field. But the other half wouldn’t warm up to him. When Coach Courtney asked one of the players why the students weren’t listening, the student hesitated but then offered the following explanation as told by Coach Courtney:
“You’re the type of guy that’s a turkey person.” And I turned my head sideways and looked at him and I’m sure I looked at him like he was from Mars. And I said, “What’s a turkey person, dude?” And he said, “Coach, every Thanksgiving and Christmas people from your side of the tracks show up in minivans and Suburbans and drop off turkeys and presents and stuff and we take them because we need them. And they seem to be nice people but they leave and we never see them again. It makes you wonder after a while if those people are doing this because they care about us or if they’re doing this so they can go tell everybody what nice things they did on Christmas or Thanksgiving. So they’re just wondering what you’re talking about at night, Coach.” – From Huffington Post
If you volunteered today, that’s GREAT and I don’t want to diminish your efforts. Today is set aside to be grateful and to reflect on everything that we have.
In our culture, we are typically showered with attention and presents on our birthday and many draw worth or sadness from the quantity of gifts and calls. But in some cultures, this tradition is actually reversed and you spend your birthday doing for others. I love this idea. The quickest way to appreciate your own life is to provide for someone less fortunate.
There are many occasions to be thankful and compassionate throughout the rest of the year. Consider picking a special day for you – your birthday, anniversary, first day of summer – and turn that into a meaningful day of giving. It will enhance your special day and make a difference in someone else’s life. If everyone adopted this approach, we could cover each day of the year.
Let’s give thanks today and every day.
That’s a great point. Hopefully we think about why we are serving, what we want it to mean for ourselves and the community in the broader sense. As you mentioned, every effort counts, it has an impact, so all efforts matter. But how deep the impact is somehow is related to the meaning we want our acts to have. My hometown is lucky to have people like you, your family, and thousands of others who realize they can control change in their own little way.