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The award-winning quarterback did something that should inspire all of us.
The Torah teaches us that, despite all its negative implications, there is one area where jealousy can play a role and that’s in our spiritual lives. If someone knows more Torah than me and that spurs me to learn more, that is a positive use of jealousy. If someone prays with more concentration than me and that is a catalyst to work on my focus that is a positive use of jealousy. And if someone has better character traits than me – is kinder, more patient, more thoughtful, more sensitive – that too can urge me on to further growth.
Nowhere do I find this more relevant and helpful than in the field of kindness. I am constantly learning from others – whether it’s the beautiful presentation when a neighbor drops off food to a new mother or the gracious hospitality my friend displays even in the wake of difficult guests or the thank you notes another friend wrote to teachers at the end of every school year, a practice I “stole” from her and emulated.
But it’s not only friends and acquaintances who can enlighten and teach us. We are taught in Ethics of Our Fathers that a wise person learns from everyone. So stories in newspapers, magazines and online posts can also illuminate better ways of being, can also enhance our own character and kindness.
One such story caught my eye the other day when I was relaxing by reading nfl.com (yes, I’m a football fan – don’t judge me). It was a story about Drew Brees, the award-winning quarterback of the New Orleans Saints. He recently became the NFL’s all-time career passing leader. This is no small feat and certainly cause for celebration.
But Brees wanted to do something special – for all those who helped him set the record. Instead of basking in his personal glory and using it as an opportunity to inflate his ego, he recognized that he could not have accomplished this alone and he wanted to acknowledge all those who assisted him in achieving this goal.
After some research, Brees determined that there were approximately 174 people who fit this qualification. That’s right, 174! He then tracked down all their mailing addresses, a feat right up there with his sports accomplishments!
And then he acted. A total of 15 current receivers, 84 former ones, seven current offensive linemen, 49 former blockers, 11 coaches and eight contributors, including Saints owner Gayle Benson, will receive a a customized football with their name and contributions in time for the holidays. Also included with the football is a letter personally signed by Brees thanking each individual for their assistance.
Now that’s what I call a thank you! It was thoughtful, it required effort, it was individual. Although I will never be a great football star (yes, I’ve gotten over that disappointment) I can learn from Drew Brees’ actions. I can become a better giver – I can take more time, expend more effort, be more thoughtful, make it more personal and, most of all I think, add something in writing that speaks to my relationship with the recipient.
I was taught many years ago that birthdays are a great occasion for expressing gratitude, that instead of receiving presents (it’s not really an achievement to live another year) we should be giving them (okay I like a little of both!) – to all those who helped us get where we are. À la Drew Brees.
But it doesn’t have to be limited to birthdays. Any time we are given acknowledgement for our accomplishments, it’s appropriate to thank all those who got us there (Academy Awards here I come!). A verbal thank you is a good and important start. But the more thoughtful, the more personal, the better.
We all have opportunities to improve our thank yous, to express our appreciation in ever more detailed and considerate ways. And I can learn how to do that from anyone, including football stars.
Mr. Brees has been quoted as saying that the four priorities in his life are faith, family, football, and philanthropy; I’m impressed that he puts faith first. And that’s the most important lesson of all – that in the moments of our greatest earthly accomplishments, not only do we have to stop and thank the “village” that assisted us but we need to first thank our biggest cheerleader of all, the Almighty Himself.