Friday, August 01, 2008

My Fifth Best Day

The day I was married.

The days my children were born.

The day I stood in my grandparents' living room and showed my grandfather my acceptance letter to Notre Dame.

Those are my four best days, and I can't envision anything ever topping them.

But the Three Amigos Dinner last night would, as Ezekiel once said to King Nebuchadnezzar, definitely make the team picture. It's not often I can say that within the space of two hours, I shook hands and had conversations with Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, Charlie Weis, Joe Montana, John Paxson, Dave Casper, Chris Zorich, "Flash" Gordon, Jim Hendry (yes, the consummate Sox fan talked Wrigley madness for a good three to four minutes), Pete Schivarelli, Stan Mikita, and the like. Actually, it's not ever I've been able to say that, so....

It's an experience I'll treasure for a long time, not only because of who was there but what was done and why. It was a Notre Dame evening, and yet it was not. Notre Dame was the common bond but not the common theme. It was mentioned, but not talked about. There were more important things on the docket, and while the class rings may have provided the first contact, they certainly didn't define the day.

The C4C letter talked about the Three Pillars on which Notre Dame was built. Last night was a celebration of the two that don't involve football, Catholicism and Education, as men and women educated in the Catholic tradition of ND gave of their time and money to support three great causes: The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, searching for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease; Hannah and Friends, aiding developmentally disabled children and adults; and the Lou Holtz Foundation, which helps the economically disadvantaged areas in the Ohio River valley among the many charities it supports.

It wasn't a Rockne Dinner by any stretch of the imagination (although I did find myself hoping that some members of the ND Club of Chicago were there to watch the effortless manner in which Jeff Jeffers emceed ... there's your logical host, boys and girls). Other than Charlie mentioning that the players would be reporting in early August and how "September 6th can't come soon enough", you didn't hear a peep about the program.

But I found it much more gratifying listening to Cindy Parseghian, a woman who had suffered the loss of not one but three children, talking with pride about the progress that had been made in the fight than I would have to listen to analysis about how our linebackers are doing. Ara told a story or two from his coaching days, but his exhortations that "we started in our own end zone [against this disease], but we've pushed it to the opponent's 35 yard line, and we're going to score!" got a much stronger reaction. Lou likes to bring a smile to his listeners' faces, but the poignancy of the video showing the poverty of East Liverpool and hearing of the satisfaction Lou felt that the foundation was making a difference there made the smiles even bigger. The video of Hannah Weis in school and the pictures of the buildings going up on the Farm did a lot more for me than a highlight film would have.

We talk about the Notre Dame Family a lot -- the bond that connects people, subway and alumnus alike, and leads them to go above and beyond in taking care of each other. Well, last night was a family reunion. It wasn't football, sports, or even Notre Dame per se ... it was a manifestation in action of the ideals and principles we'd learned there. Love thy neighbor as thyself, especially those more in need of love than most, and don't be afraid to get a little of it on ya.

I'm bummed they're not planning any more of these dinners -- last night was the third of three. But maybe someday they'll dust the idea off and give it another go, or something like it. If they do, I'll be there.

Plus, I won a print of the photo that inspired the original "Irish Impact" poster. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

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