As we begin the month of Thanksgiving, many will pause to count their blessings and reflect on what matters most. Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” While we each look at our lives from a different perspective to determine what we are grateful for, every once in a while a story comes along that inspires us and serves as a reminder of just how fortunate we are. I’d like to share just such a story today.

It’s a great day to be alive

When was the last time you found yourself saying this? In case you missed it, last Saturday on ESPN College Gameday they profiled a coach whose success and impact is measured in ways far more profound than mere wins and losses. It was a heartwarming story on how suffering can convey powerful lessons of faith, hope and yes, love. You see, even though the Earlham College football program currently owns the longest active losing streak in college football, you would never know it by the way Coach Nick Johnson courageously daily coaches his players while caring for his ill wife and being a loving father. The impact he is having on his 37 player squad, half of which are freshmen, goes way beyond the game of football. He demonstrates by his daily example not only a love for the game but a refreshening understanding of what really matters in life. He has earned the respect of his players, community and fellow coaches. In 2015, he was named Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year despite their 0-10 record.

How do you choose to start each day?

ESPN’S feature story began with him inspecting his team as practice began and him enthusiastically proclaiming to them, “It’s a great day to be alive!” What an outlook! What a wonderful way to live. Years ago, while reading a book by Og Mandino, “A Better Way to live,” I was reminded of just how important this can be for each one of us. Mandino went on to say,

To confront each morning with hope shining in your eyes,

To welcome the day with reverence for the opportunities it contains,

To greet everyone you meet with laughter and love,

To be gentle, kind, and courteous toward friend and foe,

And to enjoy the satisfaction of work well done during the precious hours that will never return,

That is the way to leave your Footprints.

Coach Johnson is certainly leaving a huge footprint for all he comes in contact with. He is a living example of what the wise old Roman Seneca said,

True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it be, without wishing for what he has not.”

A well deserved game ball

What is your reason for getting up each morning? In the ESPN feature, you learn that football, in the grand scheme of things, is small compared to the battle Coach Johnson’s wife Melissa faces. Coach Johnson’s wife explains that she doesn’t care about his wins and losses because they are winning the game of life. Through their living example of the power of faith, family and friends, they sure are and that deserves a game ball!!