Monday, January 25, 2010

The Saints - Living in a Larger Story

For the majority of people in the world a job is just a job, just something to pay the bills, a necessary evil that gets in the way of life or for some the only reason for living. However, there are rare occasions when we come across people who live in a larger story where employment is not simply a means to an end but part of a larger vocation. These people see something sacred in their work and live in such a way as if something larger is at stake than mere survival or even the rewards of success. They work, not with their own selfish desires at the center of their motivation, but in a way that considers others, that lifts others as they succeed. While it is rare to meet folks who live in a larger story or to even glimpse them from afar, when we do, we will walk away different and inspired to live differently. These are people who are freed from the tyranny of riches and fame and who live passionately from the heart. These rare individuals arise in all kinds of different fields from business to religion to politics to rock n roll but wherever they appear, they are as a cold splash of water that awakens us to live for something bigger. One such group of individuals who exemplify this rare trait to me right now is the New Orleans Saints.

If you were not living in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina wrought devastation to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast it is hard to imagine just how desperate things were. Those were very dark days. In just a matter of days the world that I was living in completely changed. I remember driving in with a relief convoy a week after the hurricane seeing helicopters flying over a darkened city sky, national guard troops holding machine guns, city streets that had just days before been filled with traffic and people that were suddenly replaced with an eerie stillness. It was the same city but it felt completely foreign—like the war torn third-world nations I had visited in years before. The emotions were a mix of shock, fear, and sadness. Would things ever be the same again? Could anything good ever come out of such amazing destruction?

Truth is things haven’t ever been the same again and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have seen this area come alive as only those who have come back from the brink of destruction can—the food tastes better, the music sweeter, the relationships stronger and richer. There is a newer, clearer perspective that has come from this watery trial. Sure many of the same old problems with government and infrastructure are still here but it is a new day.

Nothing has come to symbolize this new day for New Orleans like the New Orleans Saints. As countless others, I cannot help but getting emotional thinking about the game last night. There in that Superdome which had become the symbol of everything wrong in the aftermath of Katrina, in that place of human suffering and tragic loss, there in that place where the government failed, where we saw the worst of human suffering, there in that same place last night we saw a picture of redemption and restoration as they Saints finished strong.

Sure everybody loves their hometown football team so what makes this any different? I suppose you could make the case that I am just trying to spiritualize my love of the Saints but I feel that this is different and that there is something bigger going on here than a mere football game. I am not the only one who feels this way. When you listen to the players talking they talk as if what is going on here is bigger than football. The truth is that there is something different about this team under the leadership of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They play as though they are fighting for the city. And when they are off the field they live as though they are fighting for the city. While winning is no doubt important, the drive to win isn’t fueled simply by the need for success or greed or ego so common in professional sports. Brees and company are truly living in a larger story, a story about seeing this banged up and beaten down city restored.

In two weeks the Saints will face the Colts in the Superbowl, going far beyond any other Saints team in franchise history. That is no doubt amazing in and of itself. But whether they win or lose this final game, they have certainly won a bigger battle by lifting the hearts and minds of the people in the New Orleans area who are making their way down the path of restoration. They have inspired us to live and work in a larger story. God bless you boys!

-Crispin Schroeder


fuel52 said...

Great posting bro! I can tell you first hand that I got a tiny, infinitesimal sliver of what heaven is going to be like in that dome last night. People brought together and united by a common love that transcended socio-economic backgrounds and divisions. People embracing total strangers. Laughing and celebrating together and a joy so pronounced I had no control over the tears in my eyes. It was amazing!

I'm going to quote the great wide receiver for the Cowboys, Michael Irvin in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2007 who said the following: "You see the game flexed its greatest muscle that day: the ability to heal. I experienced a football game that contributed to the healing of a city. So don't tell me it's just a game."

Don't tell me it's just a game. I promise you the presence of God was there in that stadium last night! I'll never forget it.

Pi Man said...

One of the best blogs you have ever written my friend. Thank you for so wondefully sharing with us your writing. I'm sending this one to my family and friends outside of VCFK for sure. TA PS to Jason: Nice observations, Bro.

Julie S. Stokes said...

Beautiful article! The Saints have brought hope that this beleaguered city can still prevail! Bless you boys!

Claudia said...

Crispin, excellent job of putting into words what people are feeling and how really important the victory was for all of us. We are definitely in a bigger story than just our own. I was home by myself, but even I was drawn in:

I didn't watch the game; I peeked in on it from time to time, but was too nervous to actually leave it on. I was SO TENSE, just wanting this victory so much, but afraid to live it out second-by-second with the fans. My backyard neighbors watched with some of their relatives, and I could hear their reactions, so I kind of felt like I was watching the game with them. When they cheered, I tuned in for a couple of seconds; when they groaned, I didn't dare look.

Then I saw that the score was even, and we were in overtime. That's when I muted the sound and closed my eyes and started to pray: "God, if there's any way we can win this, if it fits into your plan at all, the City could really use a victory tonight. Please, God. We've been through so much, but we still have so much hope." I prayed, aloud and silently. (Keep in mind that I almost never watch football, and I have NEVER prayed that a team would win.) As the overtime minutes passed, it got really quiet outside. Then I heard a sound like a freight train: sustained screaming, shouting, incoherent at first, then, as they found their tongues, "WHO DAT? WHO DAT? WHOOOOO DAAAAAAAAAATTTTT!!!!!!!!! WE MADE IT! WE MADE IT! WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!!!!!!!!!!" However, it wasn't just coming from the back yard. The entire neighborhood was screaming, people spilling from their homes, running up and down the street, hugging each other, shooting off fireworks.

I couldn't help myself. I began to weep, as did many other New Orleanians at that moment, overcome, as the full import of what had just happened hit us. This was WAAYYYYYY bigger than a football game. 43 years in the making. And God's timing was, as always, perfect. This will be one of those momentous occasions where we will "remember where we were when . . . "

There are quite a few people going to Miami. But in true New Orleans style, where family is still so important to the fabric of what makes this city great, I've heard many more people say they want to be here, home, with people they love, to watch the big game and, win or lose, celebrate as only people who are from here, live here, or have lived here, know how to do!