Digging Deep for Optimism

Friday, January 15, 2016 | 0 Comment(s)

It's been a tough few weeks. It got cold.  The world lost a few great famous people, one's that left their mark in their respective arts.  But I am not one to wax on about such things.  Death is final and terrifying and oftentimes requires deep breathing.  So, to do my part, I offer you a deep breath.  Because as I said, it's cold out there.

Last weekend Viking's kicker Blair Walsh missed a gimme of a field goal versus the Seahawks, which sealed his team's playoff defeat.   It really was a short kick. Twenty-seven yards.  Shorter than an extra point. Blair Walsh, an extremely talented kicker, had the worst day of his professional life -- by far.  Post-game he dutifully answered questions from reporters.  He took complete responsibility for the shank and for his teams subsequent defeat. He made no attempt to diffuse the blame across the concept of "team."  Blair just spoke the truth.  He messed up when it meant the most for his team.  And after the reporters finished with their questions and dispersed, he broke down at his locker.

This is not the deep breath. You have to wait for it.

I'm not sure if my readership is familiar with the Vikings fanbase, but they are, fanatic. Like most frozen wastelands (I'm looking at you Buffalo and Green Bay), when it hits -20 degrees, everything freezes but your deeply ingrained passion for the local football franchise. If you don't believe me, search YouTube for Viking's fans' reactions to missed field goal.  The state of Minnesota shouted collective obscenities at their TV's while they cried their frozen tears.

Still waiting . . . I know.

Somewhere in a Minnesota first grade, teacher Judie Offerdahl has a classroom full of 5-year-olds wondering why Mommy and Daddy are so upset. So Ms. Offerdahl took this opportunity to give a real-life lesson in empathy.  She taught her students how to concern themselves with the inner life of someone other than themselves.  In this case, she focused on kicker Blair Walsh -- a crystal clear example of human suffering without it being compounded by any real tragedy having occurred.  For example, it's harder to teach empathy to someone after a death without also dealing with the subject of death.

Deep breath.

Turns out those children had no problem putting themselves in Blair's kicking boots, so they ended up writing letters to cheer him up.  “Dear Blair Walsh,” wrote one. “I know that it can be hard to get through things that are sad. but you have to try and try again. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. One time I made a mistake when I was doing a cartwheel. I felt embarrassed."

What is better than that? Is there anything better than that? Actually, there is. One girl wrote:

“For Blair Walsh. Keep on trying. Puppys are cute.”

Yup.       Yup.     Mic drop.  Because, you know, puppies are SOOOOOOO cute.  Wisdom from the mouths of babes.

It should come as no surprise that Blair Walsh was touched to receive a children's classroom full of well wishes. Adorable, heartfelt well-wishes. And, because there are few forces, if any, more powerful than the high-beams of empathy, this week Blair Walsh went and visited that 1st grade classroom to thank them for their divine humanity.  He said, "For them to show this empathy and kindness towards me is remarkable."

The world needs more shit like this. Sports needs more of it.  And HOLY CRAP does the NFL needs more of this.

The heart of all this heart, the lungs of this deep breath, is our everyday hero, teacher Judie Offerdahl. She took the time to teach compassion, and that compassion took root in her students. With further watering, I image those roots growing deep into each child's foundation.

Not bad Ms. Offerdahl, not bad.  Especially for a Seahawks fan!

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