Story of the Day for Wednesday May 2, 2012
Jesus’ View on Status
Jesus told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me. And whoever welcomes me welcomes the One who sent me. For the least one among you is the greatest.”
The murmurs of anticipation began to increase in this year’s NFL draft as the Baltimore Colts were on the clock to make their pick. They surprised everyone by picking a quarterback.
I’m not talking about the Colt’s number one pick of quarterback Andrew Luck; the place was buzzing over the last pick in the draft: Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois. By being selected dead last in the draft, Chandler captured the dubious honor of being named “Mr. Irrelevant.”
For the last twenty years, the final pick in the draft has been announced by Paul Salata, a white-haired man in his mid-eighties. He invented the Mr. Irrelevant award thirty-seven years ago — not to honor the first, but the last player picked in the NFL draft.
Chandler Harnish will hold news conferences and be showered with gifts. One bank will give him one day’s interest on a million dollars so he can feel like a millionaire for a day. He’ll get a jersey from every team in the NFL just in case he, um, gets traded to another team.
Harnish will be flown to Newport Beach, California, where they’ll throw beach parties, parades, and regattas in his honor. Then Disneyland. He will drag the infield during an Anaheim Angel’s baseball game (they won’t let him throw out the first pitch because that would make him relevant). After a banquet held in his honor he will receive his award. Instead of the Heisman, he’ll get the Lowsman trophy — a statue of a football player with a clueless stare as he’s fumbling the football.
Some think the hoopla surrounding the Mr. Irrelevant award is stupid. Even more consider it insensitive. But I think Paul Salata’s brainchild is genius. He reminds us of a teaching of Jesus that we easily forget.
In society, we honor and award the highest achievers, and why not?
But love can’t be won by achievement. Ask a mother if she loves her newborn baby less because it hasn’t yet won a spelling bee or hit the winning home run in little league. God doesn’t love us because we’re better than others; God loves us because we’re there.
Jesus gravitated toward society’s losers. He takes all our rankings according to status and tips them upside down. When it comes to learning acceptance and love, it may take us a while to wallow through the confusion and realize the least are the greatest.
Paul Salata knows what it’s like to be overshadowed by greatness. He played for the 49ers and the Colts, but didn’t amount to much. Salata went on to become an actor. He appeared in movies such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Ten Commandments,” but his roles were so unimportant he’s not even listed in the credits.
The public may see Mr. Irrelevant Week as a lot of overblown silliness. Yet, Salata has used donations for the event to quietly give over a million dollars to those who are “irrelevant”: Goodwill, Marines at Camp Pendleton, and disabled athletes needing artificial limbs.
Whenever anyone reminds me about Jesus’ view on status, I find it intensely relevant.