Monday, January 20, 2014

Aaron Rodgers on Good Works

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Posted: 20 Jan 2014 11:07 AM PST

I’ve always been something of a “quiet” Aaron Rodgers fan. Quiet simply because, having lived in the Twin Cities for the past thirteen years, I root heart and soul for the Vikings and, well, Rodgers quarterbacks the Vikings’ arch rival Green Bay. But still, after the Vikings, when it comes to the NFC North Conference, I root for the Packers. (Not only do I think you should root for your rivals if they beat you and go into post season play – you only look better if they succeed :)– but I love that Green Bay is owned by the fans.)

More than that, I thought Rodgers endured a lot during the post-Brett Farve years and handled it with grace and class. Finally, you just can’t help admire the numbers he puts up year after year.

Okay, so all that was in the past. Now, I no longer admire Rodgers quietly.

Instead, I want to do it out loud. Here’s why. Not only is Rodgers a class act, a thinking-man’s quarterback, and an exceptional athlete, he’s also an incredible person and determined to make a difference. Recently, he told a group of college students at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, about the origins of his support for The Enough Project, a group that exists to campaign for the end to genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly in parts of Africa where much of the war-lord-sponsored violence centers around the profits from precious resources used in many of our consumer goods.

Here’s how Rodgers explained it to the students in attendance this past October:

I remember sitting on the bus after we won in [Super Bowl XLV, Jan. 2011], probably two hours after the game, thinking to myself, “I’m on top of the world. We just accomplished the most amazing goal in football.” But I’m sitting there with a semi-empty feeling because I accomplished everything I wanted to do since I was a kid, and I kind of had a moment. I said to myself, “Is this it? Is there more to life than this?” And the answer was resoundingly, “Yes.” And that’s why I’m here tonight.

I think Rodgers voices something a whole lot of people discover when they achieve their dreams, whether those dreams are rooted in accomplishments or earnings or career or family or any number of other things. While achieving a goal or dream is nice, there’s still something more to life, something missing if that’s all you can imagine. But while lots of folks figure they didn’t dream big enough and so go in search of more money or greater fame or whatever, Rodgers decided to look outward and throw himself into a cause that served his neighbor. And in serving others, he’s come closer to being the person he wants to be and discovering the meaning we are all looking for.

Since that post-Super Bowl epiphany, he’s worked to raise awareness of how our conveniences and luxuries fuel conflict in other parts of the world and what we can do about it. While Rodgers didn’t connect this initiative to his faith while in Madison, in an interview about the public faith of Tim Tebow, Rodgers, also a Christian, said that he’s inspired by St. Francis:

I feel like my stance and my desire has always been to follow a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, who said, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” So basically, I’m not an over-the-top, or an in-your-face kind of guy with my faith. I would rather people have questions about why I act the way I act, whether they view it as positive or not, and ask questions, and then given an opportunity at some point, then you can talk about your faith a little bit.

I couldn’t help but think of Martin Luther’s insistence that good works flow from faith, rather than are a requirement of it. That is, good works are the things we can’t help but do for others when we realize how much we’ve been blessed. They aren’t a requirement or even proof of faith, they’re the product of it. Rodgers’ actions also reminded me that Luther invited us to find our chief calling and purpose in serving our neighbors.

And so that’s how and why Aaron Rodgers quiet good works and love of neighbor have made me a more vocal fan.

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