Clear Sky Friday – Seeing Good 31/01


How many out there follow British/English Premier League Soccer? A few years ago, at a point when the business machine of college and professional football here in the United States was beginning to disgust me, I turned my attention across the pond. While not a life long passionate soccer fan, I am a dedicated World Cup viewer. When the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta the one ticket I had to get was a men’s soccer match, and we were doubly rewarded. We were there when Nigeria defeated Brazil on their way to Olympic gold. Upon leaving the stadium the crowd was informed that tickets still remained for the women’s gold medal match between the U.S. and China: So we grabbed two and witnessed history.

Wanting something different, while knowing that British soccer is not distinct from other sports institutions, I researched teams and decided Newcastle United would be my club. It is relatively close to where my family hails from, Fulford, and the fan base is a passionate bunch with a rich history. Deciding I also wanted to cheer for an American player I added Everton to my small pantheon being that Tim Howard is their man between the pipes.

Two weekends of Derby play saw Newcastle lose to Sunderland 0-3, making this a sweep for the season in which the Magpies were shut down 0-6.  Last week saw Everton lose their Derby match to Liverpool 0-4.

Tough week.

But it is just sports, something that is more a respite than foundation. A news story that put that in context was one the Today Show highlighted yesterday. It told the story of Sam Polk, a once greedy Wall Street success story who dropped that life because he realized it was destructive. You can read about it here.

A changed man he turned his attention to helping those in need and started a charity called Groceryships. The website states:

At Groceryships we have an innovative strategy. But at the core of everything we do is a simple idea:

IT ALL STARTS WITH CARING.

Is there anything more heart-wrenching than a hungry Mom (or Dad) struggling to put food on the table, especially in a world where the cheapest food is so unhealthy?

We want to find that Mom, and help her put healthy food on the table. Then we’ll teach her skills to help her family eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthful whole, plant-foods. We’ll offer her nutrition education, healthy-cooking classes, on-call nutritionists, and appliances. We’ll introduce her to a network of other families to support and empower her.

We’ll do this one family at a time, as long as it takes.

Will inspired and moved by this drastic life change I could not help notice that he and his wife were being filmed inside a luxurious house, obviously a symbol that while his past life might have been deplorable to him now, the fruits of that tree afforded him a level of comfort. What then do we make of a story in which the ends may necessarily be justified by the means? Could Polk be making this impact without first participating in his past life?

It is not a question I can readily answer, but maybe the question is misleading. Are we asking that a man like Polk give up everything in order to make is impact truly positive? Should we not be more concerned that someone pulled themselves from the greed?

This made me think of the Sustainable Man post from earlier in the week which asked how we approach a comment or situation. With respect to the position to take, maybe we should be asking “Which one makes you feel better?”

So again I am thinking of soccer, and what a luxury it is. And I am thinking of the wonderful concert I saw last night at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall: Steep Canyon Rangers with Lonesome Bert and Skinny Lizard which not only made me happy but opened my mind. And I am thinking of hiking the Approach Trail with my friend Philip Hayes earlier this month which, while a tiresome 14 hours on the road, was a beautiful moment in nature, reconnecting with an old friend. And I am thinking about the gleaning we did last week which united strangers for a few hours to help people they will never meet.

Shall I interrogate the lives of the players, performers, my friend and the volunteers? What a terrible world it would be if a requirement from those who do good is that their past was a golden one to the good.

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