Even though I am following those tips I had for you last month about vision and wisely using our time during our shelter in place situation, I still sought inspiration to get me started for this month’s article. I never have been in a situation before where I had to ask my wife, Pat, to shave my neck and cut my eyebrows. Wish hair grew on top of my head like those places! That aside, I did find some more great tips, when you must stay at home. These tips are culled from the Home Renaissance Foundation website and were printed in the excellent Epoch Times newspaper.
The evergreen virtues of patience, fortitude and charity in the home are never more clearly needed than now. They are found in these simple habits:
Optimism – having good humor and hope.
Routine – an ordering pattern is calming and productive.
Don’t kill time – avoid on-line time wasters.
Learn something new – learn a new skill.
Practice hobbies – enjoy what you often don’t seem to have time for.
Take some time for quiet – bring Jesus more into your daily life.
Good conversations – reach out to family and friends.
Support others – offer emotional and practical support to someone struggling.
Keep calm – easier said than done. Use 1-8 above to be easier.
- Forgiveness – offer and accept apologies in our relationships.
What to do when big things happen, big changes in our lives
“When big things happen, when uncertainty abounds, and when we’re forced to stop racing through life, we tend to seek greater understanding, higher wisdom and fundamental truths,” says Barbara Danze, MBA, mother of two and writer. “If we’re looking for a lesson in all of this, perhaps it’s that the best response on the part of each of us is to reflect and search within ourselves, admit our mistakes, correct ourselves, turn our attention to God and ask for forgiveness and guidance.”
I have definitely been thinking the same thing, being together with Pat at a much slower pace than normal, and wanting to write down all the blessings we see coming out of this unique time in our lives. As our dear friend, Laurel Perusa emphasizes, “Take time to express gratitude!”
Yes, I did get that inspiration I needed to write this column from two stories, one of which I want to share in detail.
If we reflect on our own life we will remember times when very young or in our teens or twenties when we did not give our all – lack of motivation or desire, or not realizing that for me to achieve a goal it is up to me, with God’s guidance, to make it happen. Likewise, with our children, one or the other parent will try to light a fire to get each on a path to fulfillment and joy in life, to pursue something for which each has a passion. Similarly, as the years go rapidly by, now we—as grandparents—get a chance to help the parents light a fire of enthusiasm for those in the next generation. This story that so captivated me was just that situation.
One boy’s story: Tough circumstances, really tough
A young boy living with his mother, Barbara, and brother, Marty, knew that his father was an alcoholic and that it had led to his father’s divorce from his mother. This started him praying mainly to ask God to help his dad. It turned out to be a big part of this young boy’s developing trust in God.
The young boy’s older brother (17 years older) somewhat filled the role as father when the boy was young and definitely as he entered in his late teens.
Only one thing
In the seventh grade in Harrisburg, Arkansas, a small city of 18,000, the young boy had become a big, overweight boy who enjoyed eating ice cream and watching football on TV while on the couch. At that point in his life, there was only one thing he knew for sure: He wanted to be a University of Arkansas Razorback!
Of course, this boy in seventh grade had no idea what it would take to achieve his Razorback goal. He was on the junior high football team, but never played a down in the seventh grade.
In the eighth grade, the boy had become even larger and still clumsy. He played one down on defense, knocked the offensive player down and had a clear path to tackle the quarterback, but only held onto his foot as the quarterback completed a pass. His coach benched him, never to play another down in a junior high game.
Many would have quit at that point.
But a singular man changed this young boy’s life the following year.
The boy’s high school coach, learning what had happened, talked to the boy gently. He kindly explained that if the boy wanted to play football, he had to be determined. He should be the first one on the field each day and the last one to leave.
That simple explanation by the coach, combined with the Christian virtues the boy’s mother was already instilling in him, created a turning point in his life.
Gaining an Edge: work ethic
The boy still did not play much through his junior year, but he continued to grow physically, religiously, and to develop his work ethic.
As a senior he was 6’2” and weighed about 260 lbs. He now played offensive guard. A lot of improvement happened that year as he was selected to the All-State Team.
The boy’s brother secure offers for him from smaller college programs and an invitation to visit the University of Arkansas stadium with other young men “mountains” – that is, offensive linemen over 6’3” and 300 lbs. The Razorback coach told the high school senior that he was not big enough for the college team, but he could be an “invited walk on,” but as a walk-on he would never play a down in a game.
For those less familiar with football terminology, some athletes receive a scholarship and a guaranteed place on a college team. Others already look promising. And still others are afforded a not-very-likely opportunity earn a spot on the team and a scholarship by participating in tryouts as a “walk on.” In this case, the coach invited the boy, so he is an “invited walk on.” During tryouts, the walk-ons serve as “opponents” against the stronger players. The walk-ons are not given the opportunity to showcase their talents as much as the favored tryout participants. Even so, it’s a chance. And the boy in this story took it.
Although the boy, now a high school senior, lacked natural ability, he had developed strong self-discipline and a belief that God would be with him.
The rest of his high school senior year, remembering what the Arkansas coach said, the boy gained a lot of weight, growing to over 340 lbs. and up to 6’3.5”.
He turned down full-ride scholarships to smaller universities and accepted the “walked on” opportunity to try and become an Arkansas Razorback.
In his first year of college, the boy’s speed and balance suffered from all his extra weight and his teammates, particularly his roommate, were ruthless in their criticism. They picked on him relentlessly—in words and actions—yet truly by the grace of God, the boy did not lash back at them.
The Razorback line coach took a liking to the now-college-freshman. He took notice of the freshman’s determination and faith.
Meanwhile, the young man’s mother had taken out a second mortgage on her home—one she could ill-afford—for a down payment to buy her son a car. The intensity of the ugliness of the roommate increased. Even so, the young man focused on his academic courses.
His effort gained him a scholarship and he played from 1995-1998 for his dream team.
Nothing came easy
Making the cut wasn’t an excuse for pulling back. Just the opposite. Instead, it was all systems go, drive harder, faster, stronger.
The young man was determined that he would lose some 60 pounds and get his footwork down. He worked every day, starting early and staying up late, sometimes in the workout area in the dark and in the rain.
He got back down to 280 lbs. and started outrunning some of the other players.
The roommate and team could not help but be impressed by all his hard work. They came around. They started working with him and grew to like this young man who had been the brunt of so much harsh treatment. They admired his study habits and effort on and off the field.
Student peers and former tormentors even started going to Bible Study with him at the Line Coach’s house!
It was the young man’s trust in God that transformed an overweight, unbalanced big boy into a determined, balanced big man, a big young man who even had to wear black, horn-rimmed glasses to be able to see on the field. Not only that, but his study habits and test scores put him on the academic honor roll each year.
On to the NFL
In his senior year at the University of Arkansas this young man wasn’t just a Razorback, he was the captain of the team and was chosen as an All-American guard.
Before the end of that year this young man had not just earned his degree, but Brandon Burlsworth became the first “walk on” to receive a master’s degree before finishing his football career; a college football career that ended with a bowl game against the University of Texas.
In the ensuing NFL draft, Burlsworth was drafted as the second person in the third round by the Indianapolis Colts (at that time linemen usually were not drafted in the first two rounds), and then was told by the line coach to be prepared to be a starter for the team.
But then on a Wednesday afternoon when driving back home, to take his mom, Barbara, to church that evening, something Brandon did each week, his car and an 18-wheeler collided.
Brandon Burlsworth died on impact.
Brandon’s mother, brother, the town, his high school alma mater, and the Colts NFL team were devastated.
It seemed that the tremendous impact Brandon Burlsworth could have had on the future of so many lives was gone. Not so!
God’s bigger plan
Brandon’s brother, Marty, while waiting for the funeral service to be held in the Harrisburg high school gymnasium, went to the football field for a little solitude. How God could let something so bad happen to someone so good?
He desperately wanted an answer.
Marty questioned the trust that his younger brother had in God during his short life on earth.
What was the point of it?
As the time grew closer for the start of the funeral, the current Harrisburg high school football players came to the field carrying hundreds of floral arrangements—so many that they did not fit in the gym. What would they do with them? Could they spell something out? Was there a message they had?
Alone on the football field, Marty closed his eyes searching for an explanation for his beloved brother’s sudden death. He wanted an understanding of this tragedy.
When Marty opened his eyes, he got his answer.
While Marty had his eyes closed—oblivious of all else going on around him—the boys on the high school football team acted on what they knew the impact that Brandon’s life had been on them and many others.
With the floral arrangements they spelled out in the middle of the field, “WE TRUST.”
Marty then understood that Brandon’s life was short, but his work ethic, his determination, his trust in God would live on for those who knew him and for future generations.
Brandon’s family and friends went on to form the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation to help children with limited opportunities.
The actions taken to honor his memory by Harrisburg, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas, and the Colts organization are many and can be found online under Brandon’s name.
Later, a nearly eight-year effort resulted in the film titled “Greater,” which is said to be the most-watched football film during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Find it on Netflix.
I need to tell you, I cried big crocodile tears watching the movie and while writing this article. I like a good sentimental movie. But this movie positively impacted me because of the message it delivers.
As parents and grandparents we try to live by example, share stories that give guidance for the way a youth should find virtue and adopt values for his or her life, and make God an integral part of each day. Brandon Burlsworth got that message, lived it, and shared it by his example.
As Americans we are reminded on our currency – “In God We Trust.”
In the Divine Mercy Chaplet we are reminded – “Jesus, I Trust in You.”
As Christians – We Trust.
My challenge to you
I challenge you to watch Greater. Share it with your family.
If you then have a minute, let me know what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org), or write it in the Comments section below this article.
May God Bless you and keep you and your family safe.
Tim Von Dohlen is not only a sharp business entrepreneur with both legal and pharmacy degrees, having formerly practiced in both fields, and a former elected representative in the state of Texas, but he is most honored to be the founder and president of the St. John Paul II Life Center and Vitae Clinic in Austin, Texas. (www.jpiilifecenter.org). He may be reached at email@example.com
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