Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Town of Chicago and the Beauty of Waiting

Father John P. Smyth
"No person stands so tall, as one who stoops to help a child."

My job requires a great deal of waiting - waiting for that magic moment in fund-raising, when the mission and operation of Leo High School matches a prospective donor's history of giving to a school like Leo with that person's capacity to make a gift; waiting to pull together current achievements and activities at the school to make a compelling presentation to that person; waiting to get an opportunity or appointment and waiting for the magic moment when that person asks, "How can I help."

Waiting is beautiful. In that gap between need identification and the gift, I get to again get knocked over by the capacity of people to look beyond themselves. Here in Chicago, the wait is never all that long.

Yesterday, before I went home to clean up for the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at Hawthorne Race Course, I had the opportunity to teach a few seniors about the job interview process. The teacher is a wonderful young lady who won her teaching spurs and the universal respect of the often times challenging 17 and 18 year olds in her many Math classes. As part of a business math unit, this innovative and thoughtful young lady has called a number of Leo Alumni professionals to serve as a mock interview panel next week. I was the stalking horse.

I am a teacher and a teacher, or a coach is a salesman. This morning when I get into work, I will sit down with one of our senior athletes in this class for a lesson on preparing for the up-coming interview and to go over his practice resume. From those lines on the paper, I will attempt to articulate the core worth of this splendid, thoughtful, tough, and centered young man in a letter of recommendation for this fictional job. I will also use this opportunity to begin drafting a letter from me that will be used in his college application. This is fund-raising.

This teacher's impact on her students is the core of what I do. This lesson in the steps necessary for securing employment is what it is all about. The young man has learned that many people are in his corner - his teacher, volunteers who went to Leo years ago, and a splendid old chap who works in the Development Office. I'll be waiting for this senior.

I always arrive early. I had a ticket for a guest of the Leo Advisory Board's table, a beautiful woman who has helped the kids at Leo for a number of years. I waited outside the entrance for her.

Haythorne Race Course was packed with giants.

Father John Smyth the legendary priest/athlete who dedicated his life to Christ's children, no matter what religion, race, or circumsatnce they walk in the world. Father Smyth walks along side them.

Gale Sayers, the Kansas Comet and arguably the gold standard for NFL running backs, who uses his modest fortune to help inner city kids learn to speak in public, develop computer skills and more importantly learn that they do not walk alone.

Rocky Bleier of Notre Dame and NFL fame, whose career was interrupted by service in Vietnam where he was horribly wounded, but fought back his wounds to not only play professional football, but pace the great Franco Harris of Pittsburg Steelers.

Three Time National College Basketball Championship coach Jim Calhoun of University of Connecticut.

Mr. Calhoun reminded all of us of the quality that makes Chicago great - "Chicago is a Town," he told us, " You all know each other and care for one another."

Chicago is a town. I waited outside for a woman of great fortune. While waiting, I met one of Honorees for the evening Barry Sanders. He was followed by Heisman Trophy winner and Fenwick legend Johnny Lattner and a gentleman by the name of Pat Kelly. We talked while they waited for elevator operated by beautiful girl with a new set braces from Hubbard High School. Barry Sanders, Pat Kelly and Johnny Lattner turned all of their attentions to the little girl tasked with taking them up to the second floor.

The dinner began at 7 P.M. and Leo's guest was fighting traffic on the Stevenson Expresway, no matter I waited. Retired Cook County Sherrif Mike Sheahan, Hall of Fame Father and Daughter Jerry and Katie Schumacher with Katie's gorgeous Mom Kathy, Chicago Firefighting hero Jim Corbett and others treated the elevator operator like she was the most important person on earth as well. It is good to wait.

At 7:35 P.M. our table mate arrived and immediately was swarmed by the parking lot attendants. This wealthy and prminent lady greated the older attendent,"Hey, how's your wife Albert?" I waited while she caught up with her friends. When our elevator doors opened the Hubbard Greyhound in braces was on break, but when we arrived on the second floor Gold Cup Room, Leo's beautiful philanthropist chatted with each and every waiter, waitress, bartender and manager after hailing them by name. The wait was worth it.

Later in the evening, Jim Calhoun reminded all of us that what makes Chicago great is not, plants, Silver Beans, or World Class tinsel.Chicago was, is and should remain a Town of Wait-ers. Waiting is beautiful. Chicagoans are neighbors and they are patient, generous, friendly, helpful and present. They wait in the long lines at Wakes. The greatest people are never disdainful of people and treat every person Oprah or a janitor like a neighbor.

Pikers are pushy and never wait.

We joined the throng of Leo Men waiting for this gracious woman's arrival. Presidnet Dan McGrath held out her chair and the brawny stalwarts stood in welcome: Jack Fitzgerald, Bob Sheehy, John Linehan, Bill Holland and Rich Finn - Mike Joyce a Hall of Fame Director and his expectantly radiant wife greeted us from the directors table. We were waiting for Leo football coach and Board Member Mike Holmes, who arrived before Grace was said. Our table included Tamara Holder, attorney, journalist and Fox Television News legal analyst, who joined the Advisory Board in January. The brawny stalwarts now include a stunning young lady. Father John Smyth led us all in prayer and he noted while many in crowd had not waited for Grace to said, somethings should not wait. Our guest handed President Dan McGrath a gift for the boys at Leo. Waiting is exquisite in this great town.

I better launch off my ass, I do not want to keep a young man waiting.

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