Haiti, Football, & MLK Day – A Common Denominator

I have been shocked by the devastation in Haiti and I know that everyone is mobilizing to help. It’s going to take us all to get it done – teamwork. I watched earlier today when President Obama spoke, along with former Presidents Clinton and Bush, who were standing beside him. I was fine with everything that was said until Bill Clinton got in a dig at Bush, saying something like “I’m glad he’s helping Haiti now because he wouldn’t do it when he was President.” Now, I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, but I thought it was more than tacky for Clinton to say what he did. When he was supposed to be there to model teamwork, he did his usual me-me-me bit and my mind starts cheering Hillary to turn that rooster into a hen. But, hey, where’s my team spirit if I start jumping his case?

Teamwork is something we’ll see this weekend not only about Haiti but with NFL playoffs and with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. We celebrate his individual efforts for an end to the sin of racism, but we all know it takes everyone to get it done. The same with football. George Will says that “Football combines the two worst things about America: It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” Yeah, right, but I still love football. It has great analogies for life, especially those committee meetings. If we would all huddle up more often and get our heads together, wouldn’t the world be a better place? It takes teamwork to play successful football. Individual stars and goats are part of the action, but it’s a team sport.

So is life from Haiti, to Columbia, to the UMC. I first heard my friend and mentor, Dr. Ted Walter, use this story. A mule named “Jim” was being driven by his owner. It was just the one mule “Jim” who was hitched up to the wagon, when the driver yelled “Giddyup, Jim. Giddyup, Sue. Giddyup, Sam. Giddyup, John. Giddyup, Joe. As the wagon started to move, one of the passengers said: “When Jim is the only one there, why did you call all those other names?” The owner replied: “If Jim knew he was the only one pulling this wagon, he’d never budge an inch.” It takes teamwork, even when its just God and us. That’s a pretty good team, too, come to think of it. What is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity but an affirmation of teamwork: One in Three and Three in One.

Life is better when we have relationships with others, work together, all pitch in and accomplish things. Here’s a T-shirt with the wrong definition of team: “TEAM EFFORT … is a lot of people doing what I say.” In church, that’s God’s prerogative. In family life or any other communal atmosphere it’s a “we” thing to decide how we’ll all do our part. I like the Walt Disney Company attitude. If you work at Disney you’re not an employee, but a “cast member.” Each one of us is that important.

Dr. Scott Peck of The Road Less Traveled fame talks about building community by saying it happens though stages. The first stage is called “pseudo-community.” Pseudo-community is when you get together and there are hugs all around, chit-chat, hail-fellow-well-met surface falderal. It’s not real community, however, if it stays only on the surface. The next stage that does get at the hidden agendas and real needs is “chaos.” Chaos happens when we’re really honest with each other and get things out in the open a la Bill Clinton with George Bush today. After chaos comes “emptiness,” a stage in real community building where people lay aside their own personal wishes for the larger good, and hopefully we’ll see that with Clinton and Bush as they lay aside their differences. The result is real community.

I think we will see that with the world’s united reponse to help Haitians. We may see it on the football field this weekend. I pray that we’ll see it in the way we celebrate MLK Day and every time we try to live into God’s image and see that image in each other.