What does service look like in athletics? In basketball, it’s the assist, the charge, the “I–got-your-back-loose-ball-save”. In football, it’s the blocker carving the holes and the holder setting up the kick, and in baseball, it’s the guy who advances the runner by flying it to center field.
But service also looks like Samaje Perine lacing up a dangling ankle the moment his tag team buddy Joe Mixon gets injured in the College Football Playoff National Semifinal Game. “This is about way more than me” is what his actions screamed.
And it looks like Jordan Woodard’s face after he fouled out in the second overtime of the best basketball game I’ve ever seen—eyes that were empty because all of him had been left on the floor against Kansas.
Just as courage isn’t an absence of fear, but rather a willingness in the face of it, service isn’t just giving what someone else needs, it’s giving what only you can. Gifts laced with pieces of the giver have the power to lift and buoy and rally. They dig a trench for underground connection—the kind that changes people. And thus the gift never stops giving.
As the women’s basketball program at the University of Oklahoma, our team and staff have a broad platform from which to serve.
This past week, our last week of holiday break before the spring semester began, we jumped on that platform every day to try to impact our community as deeply and as broadly as we could.
Whether forming an assembly line to load trucks with food or stuff back packs with snacks, the sheer strength of our numbers gathered at one place in one time gave us the opportunity to make a big difference for the organizations we visited. Energetic manpower is always in high demand.
And whether visiting sick children or senior citizens, high profile college athletes can permeate the air in a way others can’t. At Children’s Hospital, kids migrate to our players. And for just a little bit, at least, they get to think about something other than being sick.
At the Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Sooners put together over 500 boxes of food for children in need in the OKC metro area.
The same is true for the elderly. Our energetic athletes engage them and for a while they get to feel silly and goofy and very, very important. Their smiles and hugs reflect the gratitude they feel for the reprieve—the reminder of being 19.
Uncommon Service week is about making a difference in Oklahoma. It’s about digging in and giving back. And it’s about remembering that our platform is both an opportunity and a responsibility.
What we learn as a result of the doing is the ultimate paradox: That which we expend comes back to us multi-fold. Service is the quintessential boomerang that feeds the soul.
We couldn’t feel more blessed.