As the NFL’s regular season is completed, our attention, perhaps even obsession, for the next month will be dedicated to the play-offs and championship games. Looking back on this and recent years, the National Football League has been a strong leader in helping our nation sort out what is important. They also inspire us to be better. As we enter the Super Bowl season, consider getting inspired by the excitement and, at the same time, do good deeds like feeding hungry souls by contributing cans of soup to neighborhood food pantries.
Since the early 1970s, and in the past decade under a new title, the league has highlighted the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award to honor the importance of being winners off the field as well as on. The recipient gets announced each Superbowl weekend. This honor reminds players, that we revere as gladiators, stormtroopers, or superheroes, of what true heroes do to improve the world. It reminds fans that the game of football is secondary to the game of life. That message was reiterated powerfully at the final Monday Night Football game when the contest was stopped because of the dire condition of Damar Hamlin. In addition to being reminded of how fragile and unpredictable life is, people expressed incredible goodwill and generosity that is not common in daily interactions. Most players have charitable foundations that they support to improve conditions in their city; over $8 million was contributed to Hamlin’s over the past week. For the past several years, when our nation has dealt with unnerving social justice issues that cause tension and violence, players have worn helmet decals that express to viewers the value of human life and our challenge to create a better society.
All of this, and more, adds up to a very good example for us, citizens and fans. Though it’s easier in Chiefs’ Kingdom than in many professional cities because our local team is so good and such fun to watch, the NFL, I think, is making a huge impact across our nation. In the parishes I have served, the Super-bowl season has been dedicated to collecting soup for area food pantries. Last year, Saint Charles Parish collected over 30,000 cans of soup to supply pantries and feed hungry neighbors. School children and families enjoy the challenge of collecting; classrooms and organizations engage in competitions for greatest contributions. On Superbowl Eve, participants hold a celebratory feast in which they prepare their favorite soup, bisque, chowder, or stew to share with others. In some cases, those who come to our social agencies for assistance join us and, in other cases, families that adopt less fortunate families for Christmas basket programs continue their relationship beyond the holiday season.
It might be an enjoyable and unifying undertaking for parishes and schools throughout the metropolitan area to join in this annual effort together. Not only would it help us work closely in an effort of goodness and generosity, but it would also help us to walk nearer with our brothers and sisters who visit social agencies, help us to understand some of the stories that contribute to social inequity, help us to manage the doldrums of winter, and help us become part of a winning team that inspires others to be victorious as we celebrate it in churches, schools, homes, and community centers across the country.
On a related note, if you want to get started immediately, some of our urban communities will gather to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday on January 16 by collecting and distributing care packages for homeless citizens. In preparation, items can be brought to Saint Therese Little Flower’s Parish Office, January 9-12, 9AM to 2PM. Products we welcome include storage baggies to create the care bag, any food in a self-opening tab can (tuna, fruit…), crackers with snacks (peanut butter, cheese…), raisins, snack packs, breakfast bars, bottled water, hand/foot warmers, hygiene items, and sanitizing gels or wipes.
Chiefs’ Kingdom is on fire—in the stadium and in the streets. Let’s imitate our heroes on the team and fantasy team heroes throughout the NFL by being heroes in our community,