One of the things I have always loved about MIAC football is that at the end of the game, fans and family can go down to the field and join their favorite players for hugs, conversations, photos and family time.
It is a chance for moms and dads to connect with their sons and see how they are doing. It is a chance for players to ask for money. Just kidding. Mostly.
But it is also an opportunity to glimpse the humanity and resilience of these young men. After a loss, how are they holding up? After a win... well, it's well past time for one of those. Saturday, after the loss to Luther at Manitou Field, I watched as two Ole players set aside their aches and pains, their disappointment with the loss, to play. They played catch. With fans. Fans with special needs who had come to the game to cheer on Nate Penz and his teammates.
So how did Nate Penz and Tyler Vajdic repay those fans? By playing with them on the field. By taking the time to share joy with those whose smiles said everything.
Tyler and Nate still were in uniform. They had not yet retreated to their locker room sanctuary. And they seemed in no hurry to do so. All I could see were smiles, as the players and the fans ran around. All I could hear were laughs and encouragement.
I am sure that other schools have players willng to share the joys of their game. I am just not sure that other teams have players willing to share after a loss. Each week, I watch as Oles take the time post-game to greet parents, grandparents, friends, fans... with a smile. With hugs. With such generosity of spirit that it coaxes me to smile as I write this.
So, here is a lesson these players have given me... and, I hope, give to you. How do I deal with disappointment in my life? How do I respond to bad news? Can I remember to show grace and generosity to others in my life, depite how my day has gone?
Nate and Tyler ... and so many other Oles... are not only showing me that I can.
They show me that I should.