Changing Lives is a Contact Sport

The opening of David Brooks new book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life reads:
Every once in a while, I meet a person who radiates joy…They are kind, tranquil, delighted by small pleasures, and grateful for the large ones.  These people are not perfect.  They get exhausted and stressed.  They make errors in judgment. But they live for others, not themselves.  They’ve made unshakable commitments to family, a cause, a community or a faith.
Dalton Risner is such a person. He hails from a town of less than 1,000 people but starting in the fall will be watched by millions as he embarks on his NFL career.
Prior to being drafted this weekend, his moving story was profiled in this brief video. Definitely worth your time to check out if you’re looking for a pick me up today.
His platform as both a college football player and now as a professional one, could allow him to give back in any number of ways.  His choice involved finding individuals who were in need of a friend.  Who in Brooks’ words, could use someone who would take “interest in them and make them feel cherished and known.”
Football is a contact sport and so is changing lives.
We can write checks or volunteer behind the scenes episodically. These are important contributions to causes and communities.
But there is no substitute for getting involved directly.
In my own life, I must admit my own failings in this regard.  By disposition, I have always been more comfortable typing words on a familiar laptop than to shake the hand of a stranger. By practice, it is easier for me to address hundreds from a stage than trying to strike up a conversation with two people I don’t know at an event.
But when I think back to those times I have stepped out of my comfort zone and made a longer-term commitment to someone who otherwise would have been unknown to me, I feel the joy referenced above.
For a year in college, I bowled every Friday night with a group of four Special Olympians (and lost each and every time).
For several years, I read to a student in New York City once a week at lunchtime.
And just recently, I started helping three students preparing their college essays.
I’m not trying to virtue signal with these examples.  Just the opposite.  If I estimated the total amount of time I spent with this direct service, it would amount to less than the number of hours in one week.
This seems a pittance to me.
Right now, there is someone out there who I’ve never met, who you’ve never met – who is waiting for someone to take interest in him or her, to make them feel cherished and known. 
Joy awaits…. For us all.

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