Making a Lasting Impact
I’ve been on the leadership team for a spiritual retreat a number of times, but one from many years ago stands out in my mind.
As an icebreaker for newcomers to the experience, the gathering begins with a “new best friend” activity. Men pair off and learn some tidbits about each other, such as family background, a favorite hobby or sport, and a person who meant a lot to their life. Then they introduce each other to the rest of the group.
On this particular weekend, the thing that struck me was how often men mentioned their mother as their #1 influence. The reason: because of her caring and giving of time and love to their family.
How ironic. We spend much of our lives striving for recognition, acclaim, personal and professional awards, and often the money that accompanies such achievement. But if we want to be remembered, the way to do so is by serving others.
Rushing the Wrong Way
That retreat came to mind recently when I read a profile in Sports Illustrated about premier Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
I have watched Elliott with fascination for the past year. The Buckeyes’ amazing run to the national championship last season reawakened the fandom I developed as a kid, growing up 90 miles north of Columbus.
Naturally, I was deeply disappointed by two recent events, starting with the Buckeyes’ three-point loss to Michigan State on the last play of the game. What made it worse was Elliott’s emotional post-game remarks, where he criticized the coaches for only calling his number 12 times.
While an old friend said OSU should have used Elliott more, he agreed with me that the running back picked the wrong place and the wrong time to air his gripes.
Actions Speaking Loudly
Still, SI’s profile of Elliott contained an interesting tidbit about him that mollifies the disappointment I felt over his post-game explosion.
It concerned a visit he made last February to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in downtown Columbus to see a basketball player whose high school career ended because of an injury. Elliott took along a teddy bear and an autographed Sports Illustrated, and stayed a half hour.
It should be noted that this took place the month after OSU captured the national title. The player, Brooklyne Baldwin—now a freshman at Wright State University—recalled that “my family was absolutely shocked.”
For the star running back, “the visit outweighed all the hassles of being a well-known Buckeye,” wrote SI’s Pete Thamel. “‘Who are we?’ he says. ‘We run fast and jump high. To have an impact on someone’s life means more than scoring a touchdown or holding up the national championship trophy.’”
Indeed. While Elliott won’t be hoisting another trophy after the upcoming national championship game, he is likely to go on to the pro football draft and a career worth millions. Indeed, as a longtime (and long suffering) Browns’ fan, I hope he winds up in Cleveland and revives their currently-miserable fortunes.
Yet, no matter how much money he makes or touchdowns he scores in the NFL, I think Elliott has demonstrated that he knows what matters most in life. Like the mothers who touched so many men on that retreat, making an impact on someone’s life is the source of lasting fame.