When tragedy happens, it often provides us with a glimpse of the best face of humanity. In the final Monday Night Football game of the regular NFL season, #3, Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, quickly stood up, then collapsed after a seemingly routine tackle on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver, Tee Higgins.
My family and I watched in shock, as did the rest of America. The broadcast gracefully didn’t show details of what was occurring on the field as first responders struggled to get this young man’s heart going again. Apparently, they had to rip his helmet and pads off to pound away at his chest and shock him back to life. If you watch the replay, this explains the horrified looks on everyone’s faces. I struggled to recall if anything like this had ever happened. Veteran football players and announcers confirmed the unprecedented nature of this evening’s events. The NFL finally called the game and I went to bed with dread of the news I would see first thing the next morning. I restlessly dreamed of him all night long. Tuesday morning came and still nothing.
Despite my sports-junkie status, I can’t say that I ever heard of Damar Hamlin. Before Damar’s injury, he began a toy drive for the underprivileged in his hometown of Pittsburgh. His GoFundMe goal was $2500. As of the submission of this article, he is trucking toward 9 million dollars.
The week drug on with a small update here and there, but still no “He’s out of the woods and off the ventilator” declaration. The world held its collective breath as the aforementioned GoFundMe grew while this young man was in a medically induced coma. I mean, we’d all consider it a victory just to have him recognize his family, much less walk and talk. It wasn’t just the sports’ world waiting with bated breath, by mid-week, it was being covered by the CNN’s of the media world.
I feel an excitement writing this column that I don’t usually feel. I mean, I’m always excited and grateful to be able to write and have a platform on which to write, but this is different. Why? The short answer is, like in the SEC, “It just means more” is the phrase that comes to mind. The more in-depth answer is that Hamlin draws focus to one of the tenets I so strongly feel to my core—the tenet of oneness.
I don’t recall who said it on Monday Night Football, but it’s worth repeating here: “A spark doesn’t have to be a fire, it can be a whisper.” If you listened hard enough that evening and the ensuing week, you could hear the whispered prayers of millions. It brought us all to the basic humanity within. Even the usually arrogant Aaron Rodgers spoke with an authenticity we’re not accustomed to. Leadership is sometimes hard to grasp and quantify, but it crystalizes in people like Coach Mike Tomlin as he spoke of his personal connection to Damar Hamlin.
We can often be strangers to ourselves, but not in these moments. In these moments, we know what to do. Sometimes we don’t need guidance, sometimes we simply know if we listen to instinct. The same instinct we like to ascribe to “dumb” animals is within us too. Perhaps we’re like this in Heaven and we get dumbed down to come here. It doesn’t mean it’s gone, it just doesn’t always look Heavenly. Angels will sing off-key, if that’s what it takes to show their guidance.
Sometimes pain can feel so immense because it is not meant to be endured in secrecy. Since pain is a universal experience we all encounter, it is a unifying force that brings us together in greater connectedness when we dare to process our pain together. This is the heart of intimacy.
News slowly improved over last week. It improved to the point where the Bills organization felt comfortable proceeding with the season. Still, we all wondered how things would go—how fans, coaches, and players alike would respond. “Truth is stranger than fiction” is an axiom for a reason. Nyheim Hines ran back the opening kickoff 96 yards for the Bills. You can’t write something like that and have it believable. Just look at the shocked and elated face of Josh Allen, starting QB for the Bills for confirmation of this moment. Then, before the game was over, in something that hadn’t happened for a decade, Nyheim Hines runs back a second kickoff 104 yards.
Damar Hamlin gave the faceless a face. Most will only know the studs on any given team, because that’s all that’s usually highlighted on Sports Center. Until that Monday Night Football, Damar was faceless like the rest of the helmets and jerseys on his team. Even if he never plays another snap, his soul aligned that evening for a higher purpose highlighting our collective connectivity. Remember we all have these higher purposes, we just don’t all have it displayed on national television.
The best of us can separate from the rest of us. What do I mean by that? Consider the abstract: Is it not true that the loudest, not the most capable of us, often becomes the leader of us? The worst of us is so often all we’re willing to see. No such thing as bad publicity, right? Not this time with Mr. Hamlin. Remember the time he showed us the best of us and determine to build in that direction in your own precious ways. The seeds of tragedy need not sprout despair this spring.
Thank you for reading and continue to look for the best of us while praying for Hamlin and his loved ones. I for one, can’t wait to see what this young man does in or out of uniform.