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GIVING BACK: 3 Lessons from 3 Great Men of the NFL


Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles), me (short person), Garrett Celek (San Francisco 49ers), J.K. Schaffer (Cincinnati Bengals) and Rob Ludwig.

Disclosure: I love football. I beg my kids to toss with me every summer on the beach. I even played quarterback in intramural flag football in college. (Swear this is true. At 5’3″ I was a force to be reckoned with). But this article is not about football. It’s about life, and giving back to those that helped you shape yours.

Venue: Cincinnati LaSalle High School Camelot Auction (fundraising event)

How did 3 NFL players end up there? Each of them played football for this high school. They came back to give back.

Why should you care? So many of you give back – through your work in the NICU, your communities, and your own fundraising efforts. I thought of you while I was at this event. I think you’ll appreciate what I learned there. I’m writing this in honor of you, the unspoken heroes, the caretakers of fragile infants and their families.

Here are 3 lessons I learned from the NFL-men (that’s what I’ll call them here):

1. Time trumps money.

Did the NFL-men help raise money for the school? Yes. Was that their biggest contribution of the night? No. Their biggest contribution was their time. And not just time measured in hours- time measured in complete and utter commitment to being there.

They did not waltz in at 8pm and leave at 9:30. They brought their families and settled in at a table just like the rest of us. They hung out. They took photos without complaint. They signed things. They added ‘items’ to that auction that weren’t on the docket – things that would involve MORE of their time in 2014 and 2015. They enjoyed doing this. They truly showed up.

They could’ve sent in financial support without appearing in person. They didn’t.

They taught me that when giving back, time is our most valuable commodity.

2. Giving is an ego-less sport.

The NFL-men could’ve made a big entrance. Could’ve asked for a special place to sit or at least a little fanfare. But I didn’t even know they were there for a couple of hours. (I did wonder who those big guys were.)

Their actions and words contained no references to their own achievements. There was only a spirit of gratitude, camaraderie, and being back ‘home’ in this school.

This reminds me of you. Every day you clock into work and take care of someone else’s children. You do this through any sort of weather, natural disaster, or state of stress in your own lives. You volunteer extra hours to run committees and set up early intervention services, and stay late for the third day in a row because it’s the only time mom can meet you for that first feeding. You come in from home to support families when letting go is the only option. And that doesn’t even touch on what you do outside the NICU.

You do this without external reward because the energy of giving is your trophy.

The spirit with which you and the NFL-men give back is heroic. Life-changing. Vital to making the world go around.

Cheers to all of you for checking your ego at the door.

3. Thank the pavers.

If you look back, you likely have at least 1 person, if not many, that contributed to your successes – a friend, parent, coach, mentor, teacher or first boss.

Maybe you would’ve succeeded anyhow, but with their input, you skipped a lot of mistakes or learned more from the ones you did make. Maybe they believed in you, the kid that everyone assumed had no direction or potential, or cheered for you as the kid who was driven from the start.

The NFL-men made it clear that they were there to thank their pavers – those who helped them lay down a path not only to professional football, but as one of them said, “I learned how to become a man here.” THIS was the primary spirit of their involvement.

It made me consider, “Have I thanked everyone in my life that helped pave the way?”

Have you?

It seems that part of the recipe of giving back involves this crucial step of acknowledgement, a trip back down the path that led you, however crooked and wandering, to the place you are now.

Thanks NFL-men, for waking me up. For making me aware of some letters I need to write or phone calls I need to make.

“Praise the bridge that carried you over.” George Colman the Younger


Thanks guys.