Last week I attended the Xavier “X” Breakfast - the 2nd annual fundraising breakfast at Xavier College Preparatory, my alma mater, in Phoenix, Arizona. Yes, we served Egg McMuffins for breakfast. And yes we raised one million dollars - in one hour. That’s amazing.
I use the term “we” for a few reasons, but mainly because I feel connected to the school in many ways. Certainly as an alum, there are lessons I learned during those formative teenage years - positive and challenging - that have stayed with me and help to define who I am. Equally as important are the four years I spent as a teacher, coach and administrator at Xavier following my graduation from Notre Dame. The lessons I learned during my “2nd” four years at Xavier were just as impactful and in many ways more meaningful and more spiritual, less academic but just as educational.
I return to Xavier now as an alum, as an author, and as of last week - as a speaker at the breakfast. It was truly my honor to share with over 750 people how Xavier has made a lasting impression on my life. And I too was inspired.
Just before I left, a senior English teacher at Xavier handed me a notebook filled with essays that her seniors had written based on - and after reading - my book. Wow. I read the entire notebook from start to finish as soon as I boarded the plane. The essays were amazing. Their thoughts were deep and insightful. They “got it.” They understood more than I did at 18 years old, yet it was clear they learned something from me as well. These girls are, from reading their essays, worth every dollar Xavier raised as we ate our Egg McMuffins.
We had a wonderful summer, but now that my children are back in school, it is time for me to get back to “work” as well.
Yesterday I travelled to Arizona, and over the next 26 hours I have two radio interviews and four book talks. It is a lot, but I love it - and I enjoy the opportunity to share my story with as many people as possible.
In some ways it is “work,” but in many ways it is a calling - an outreach - a way of life for me. I feel very blessed and lucky to share hope with others.
We should all have this in our lives. I know too many people who do not love their jobs. Right now, however, those with jobs probably (or should) feel fortunate to just have a job. But we all need a passion as well. Something that we can contribute to, that helps others, that gives us a sense of accomplishment and of “making this world a better place,” as my grandfather’s words echo in my mind. If you don’t have this, find it. By giving to others it will enrich your own lives.
Last week the NCAA had all college football teams shake hands before the game. I had to privilege to watch this live while attending a game- and many times on TV over the holiday weekend. Each team stood holding hands along their side line - shoulder to shoulder in a line that almost stretched the entire length of the field. The teams then walked forward and shook hands and embraced the players from the other team. I hear they are only scheduled to do this before the opening game of the season. I am sorry to hear that. They should do it before every game.
College football is exciting, competitive, unpredictable and a lot of fun for its fans to watch. But when you watch a team like Navy or Army play, you can’t help but swell with pride for who these young men are and who they will become. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
Last Saturday, I watched the end of the Navy vs. Ohio State game from the Notre Dame Monogram room on Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend. Our family cheers for Navy because we live in Annapolis, MD. But I was touched to see so many Notre Dame fans cheering for Navy as well. Genuine cheers. They weren’t cheering against Ohio State by any means - they were just rooting for Navy and for the young men playing for the Academy. Most Midshipmen do not go to Navy to play football; they go to Navy to become officers in the military - and they just happen to play football along the way. The don’t have career goals of the NFL; they have career goals of service to our country.
I was very proud last week watching football: pride in the young players who shook hands in good sportsmanship; proud of the players who, at such a young age, feel the national pressure of being watched by millions, proud of our military who serve selflessly, and proud of the fans who can see beyond the value of a win or a ranking. Sport is about good sportsmanship, about commitment, about being part of a team and relying on - and helping - your teammates. It teaches you the values that will serve you well in the future. Looking at it that way, perhaps football is great training for our future military officers.
This week was our first week back to school. There was excitement around our house, and my two boys were ready for it…they needed it. We are blessed to be at a school where learning is fun, where each child’s talents are valued, and where learning is structured around the interests of the students. The best part, as a parent, is seeing my children run to school each morning because they can’t wait to begin their day.
Being back at school, it was fun for my boys to see their friends again, and it was fun for me to see my friends again too. Being gone for most of the summer was a wonderful experience, and much needed family time. However, there is something special about coming “home.”
There is a familiar saying, “Home is where the heart is.” I guess my heart is in many places, as I have many locations I consider “home.” Of course Annapolis home; it is where I live, love and raise my children. Arizona is home; it is where I am from and where my parents still live in my childhood home. And I learned this week that “home” is at my boys’ school as well. I felt a sense of comfort and peace when I sent my boys back to school - you know that feeling you feel when you are “home.” How lucky we are to continue, no matter where we are, to be surrounded by the family to which we are born and the family we create around us.