As last night’s game versus Fort Wayne was winding down to its final seconds, I had already mentally drafted most of my game recap. I was going to comment on the great atmosphere at the game with more than 20,000 in attendance. A mention would be made that the eRUPPtion Zone was finally filled thanks to selling tickets to the general public. I would have noted John Calipari’s brown sports coat worn in homage to the legendary Adolph Rupp (this game was part of the Adolph Rupp Classic).
I was prepared to write a glowing review of Nick Richards who seemingly had a breakout game, scoring 25 points and collecting 15 rebounds in his 26 minutes of play. Seeing things click for the freshman brightened the spirits of Coach Cal as well as the Big Blue Nation. Richards’ performance helped fuel a mostly steady game by the young Wildcats.
Yes, my game recap was nearly complete, needing only some post-game quotes from Cal and the players to round out the article. And then, Coach Cal’s post-game press conference happened.
Cal talked about what he said to the team after the game. His message was clear: Be thankful. He emphasized the importance of servant leadership and spoke of upcoming opportunities for the Wildcats to give back. He wants his players to think about someone other than themselves and to understand there are people in far less fortunate circumstances.
“I said, ‘Look, how many of you grew up where you didn’t have much?’ I said, ‘When I see someone homeless or I see someone that’s struggling, I say only by the grace of God that’s not me,’ ” Calipari said. “Where I came from, how I was brought up, it could have been me.”
Then Calipari shared the fact that there are 2,600 homeless people in Lexington. It’s a sobering statistic and one that led Cal to implore the Big Blue Nation to remember those that are alone.
“Either bring them food, knock on their door, or have them come to your house and eat. Got to be some woman, some mother, you know they’re alone. I would suggest to all of you, if you have a chance, bring somebody in your home, make somebody else’s day, take them food. Do something neat.”
And with that answer that had nothing to do with basketball, my planned game recap was no longer the story I wanted to do. It was not the story I needed to do. I knew my story had to be about thankfulness.
You see, for roughly 24 hours prior to last night’s game, I had been hosting my own private pity party. The holidays haven’t been so joyful for me in recent years. Several family members lost, including both of my parents has made Thanksgiving something I now endure rather than celebrate. Wednesday was particularly rough, hearing many media members talk about their families and their planned celebrations. All I could think of was the family members with whom I could no longer share a Thanksgiving dinner. I wondered how I would be able to withstand the holiday alone while my daughter spent the day with her boyfriend’s family.
Yes, pity party, indeed.
When I arrived home around midnight, Cal’s speech still rang in my ears. Despite exhaustion, sleep was not going to come easily or at a decent hour. “There’s got to be some woman, some mother, you know they’re alone.” I was overwhelmed. I was some woman. How was I supposed to help someone who was alone when I was alone myself? Thus, the pity party continued until the wee hours of the morning.
When I awoke Thursday morning and began brewing a pot of coffee, the pity party came to an abrupt halt as I realized I was focused on the wrong thing. I have a home, I have food, and I have the most amazing 18-year old daughter in the world. Yes, I was alone on Thanksgiving day but that didn’t mean there would be no family celebration. Our little family of 4 will be gathering on Sunday and while our numbers aren’t many, our love and memories more than make up for that. Rather than concentrating on what I no longer had, I needed to be giving thanks for all that I do have.
In a nutshell, that is the message Cal was giving all of us. We could all be some woman one day. How would we want to be treated?
So my plan now is to think of others instead of myself. Maybe my daughter and I will volunteer at our local soup kitchen or perhaps we will work at the homeless shelter on Christmas to serve meals to those who are so less fortunate than us. Whatever we end up doing, it will be something that will help us remember that we have so much for which to be thankful and we absolutely should be helping those that need a hand.
I ask you to join me this holiday season in finding opportunities to brighten some lives. Let’s make someone’s day. And let’s do something really neat.
Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue
Coach Cal’s full post-game remarks here: