Matthew 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I saw Bob Griese the other day as an announcer/commentator on one of the football games, and it brought back some memories of that name. I did a little checking into his story.
The Rose Bowl back in 1998 saw the Cougars of Washington State, who hadn’t gone to the Rose Bowl in 67 years, battle Michigan. As it turned out, it was a great football game, Michigan barely won, and there was tension to the very last two seconds of the game…all of which made it an entertaining game to watch.
The most valuable player of the game was the quarterback from Michigan. His name was Brian Griese, the son of the famous professional football quarterback from Miami who won several Super Bowls, and this same famous father was doing the TV commentating on the Rose Bowl and proudly watching his son perform so well that day.
But this is the story that wasn’t told that day on TV but I read in a newspaper. When Brian, the son, was twelve years old, his mother was dying of cancer. His older siblings had already left home, and young Brian was fully present to absorb the pain of losing his mother. After his mother died, he and his famous dad were now home alone, his dad having to learn how to cook the breakfast eggs and take care of his son’s daily needs. The father and son bonded in a special way, sharing both their mother’s death and the subsequent years together. Ultimately, Brian went to Michigan University although his father had gone to Purdue. There at Michigan, Brian was a good player, but not a great player, but elected to come back for his fifth year to be the quarterback of this great Michigan team.
While at the University, in addition to his football life and the normal activities of being a young scholar\athlete, he spent his Thursday nights visiting the local hospital. Being a leader, he always took other athletes along. Gradually, the hospital staff began to expect young Brian Griese on Thursday nights; that was his regular pattern.
Well, there was this young woman who was involved in an automobile accident, suffered a spinal injury and was to be confined to her wheelchair for the rest of her life. She enjoyed Brian Griese calling on her because he cheered her up. He didn’t give her sympathy but deeply admired her courage. Time went by, and while in the hospital, she and Brian became friends during those regular Thursday night visits. Eventually, she asked Brian if he would escort her to her Senior Prom. He declined, not wanting to draw attention to himself, not wanting to cross inappropriate boundaries. He told his friends about the invitation, and they told him he made a mistake, that he should honor her request and take her to the Prom. So he did. He danced with her in her wheelchair throughout the night, picked her up with his strong arms and danced with her without the wheelchair. It was an electric night, filled with emotion for all who were there. And Brian Griese felt it was his humble honor to escort such a courageous woman as this, a young woman who had much more courage and inner strength than he did.
You see, Brian Griese is a devout young Christian, and he gives all of his giftedness to God: his athletic abilities, his good home life, his wonderful mothering, his fathering who coached him in special ways to be a quarterback, but Brian also gave his gift of compassion.
Where did Brian learn this gift of such compassion for this young woman? I would guess that he learned it during his mother’s battle with cancer. During those long months, I would guess that Brian learned a quality of empathetic compassion that many people never learn. His great tragedy in his life, the loss of his mother, eventually was transformed and matured into being a gift, a gift of empathetic compassion for people in difficult circumstances. Yes, he gave all of his gifts to God.
Dear Lord, help us to give our all to you in service to others. May our lives be so gifted that we may lift someone up to where they feel electric, in and through Jesus. Amen.
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