Thursday, December 04, 2008

Where Scores Don't Matter

Want to know where the mission field is? Look out your window.

All I have to go on is what happens in my own city ... as egocentric as that may sound. Wherever you live, similar opportunities certainly exist. My advice is: Seize them. First, visit http://www.handsonbirmingham.org/ to learn how our city and surrounding communities extend a helping hand. (And not just during December.) HOB serves as a clearinghouse for a long list of volunteer service agencies. Few parameters exist because volunteers are always needed, but age requirements may be in place for some activities and with some agencies.

This is the same organization that sends out alerts for volunteer needs during all states of emergency. Most recently, Hurricane Gustav sounded the alarm, and HOB was filling e-mail inboxes faster than you could say "storm's a comin'."

When Gustav hit Labor Day weekend and evacuees were being transported by buses into Birmingham, I was not the first to say, "Let's go." It was my son. He stood over me as I responded to the e-mail. We spent that overcast Monday, searching for diapers, distributing water bottles, serving lunch and unloading trucks. Then there was the small issue of causing a near-uprising when my son changed the channel on the big-screen TV in the convention center from Tyra. He was pelted with shouts of "Hey!" and "Turn it back!" (It wasn't entirely his fault. An evacuee asked if he could find some sort of news program that would tell whether New Orleans had flooded. It seemed a reasonable request.)

I tell you this not to point out any good in him or in me, but to point out how you don't have to wait to be asked.

You may be saying, "But, Amy, you idiot, we're not in a state of emergency." Sure, you may not be, but thousands of others may be. Go help them. Salvation Army needs help filling bags of toys and assisting clients by loading their cars. YWCA facilities need volunteers to help parents "shop" for presents and to entertain the children for a few minutes while their parents are tending to a little Christmas business. Mental health facilities are asking for assistance in serving holiday meals to developmentally disabled adults. Gosh, you have all SORTS of things to choose from. Choose your interest, fill a need.

It's so much easier to help out in these situations when someone asks. But don't wait to be asked. Don't wait for the next natural disaster. And don't stop after December.

Now, let me step down from this soapbox for just a minute ... OK. There. In other business, we turn our thoughts to football. Auburn football, to be more specific. No matter how you feel about a coach's record -- whether for 10 years or one season or even one in-state rivalry -- have some depth about you and look beyond the stats. Tommy Tuberville may no longer be Auburn's head coach, but he has left a remarkable legacy.

Tuberville's first order of business when he arrived in Auburn 10 years ago was to hire a team chaplain. That decision and its subsequent hire led to a 90 percent team participation at the voluntary Friday night chapel gatherings, regular Bible studies attended by coaches and players, and more. Tuberville began this practice at Ole Miss, carried it over to Auburn by hiring Chette Williams, and inspired schools across the SEC to follow suit.

He managed team discipline with a swift hand and handled the occasional raw deal with dignity. His cool demeanor and trademark smirk, even during bad calls and poor outcomes, made us proud.

I'll leave the rest of the analysis and commentary to the sports writers and sports radio folks, but I feel qualified enough to say that this is a sad day. No anger, just disappointment.

If there's a tie-in with the first portion of this post, it's this: Tuberville found his mission field and worked it well. It just happened to have a scoreboard. But the most important things he did for college football and for Auburn? Even if they tried, nobody could keep score.

Tuberville strolls through the pre-game Tigerwalk. (photo by Jason McCary; I lifted it off Flickr; my Tigerwalk photos show only the top of Tuberville's head and are out of focus because they're taken by a kid who is sitting on his/her father's shoulders, or they're taken by me and result in a colorful shot of other people's heads and elbows; so, thanks, Jason McCary, whoever you are!)