Following our opening football game of the season, fans may have left the stadium a bit disappointed by the storyline the scoreboard told. However, the night nor the storyline for the evening was complete! It wasn't until two days later that the rest of the story was revealed to me as the band booster president from the opposing school shared the following with me:
“I am writing to commend two of your students for the character they displayed after the BCS-Chelsea football game on Friday night.
Once the crowd was gone, two other band parents and I went to the Visitors’ side to pick up trash and clean the bleachers. When we got there, two of your students, (two girl’s names omitted) were already picking up trash. We did not know either of them and expected them to leave once we arrived, but instead, they apologized for the mess left behind and continued to pick up trash. Despite the fact that all of the other BCS students and fans were long gone, they stayed and helped us until all of the trash was bagged up, at which point they asked if there was anything else they could do to help us. We truly appreciated their help and were impressed with the character and kindness they showed when no one was looking.”
Upon receiving this note, I wrote a letter of commendation to these two young ladies and here was part of the response from one of the girls:
“Earlier Friday I had heard a few things about (students from the other school) saying we were hypocrites. Hearing that discouraged me, so I just felt led to do whatever it took to show them what Christ is like, NOT me. I don't deserve any notice for this, I believe this was simply an opportunity to show how Christ loves.”
WOW! What a sweet response of love. I was so impressed with both the act and response that, at the conclusion of our service chapel on Thursday, I shared this story with the high school student body. Their response to this event gave me yet another glimpse into the heartbeat of our students as they broke out into spontaneous applause.
I told students that I was challenged and motivated by the action and response of these girls and that I would be found cleaning the trash in the bleachers following the game (last night). I asked if there might be five or ten students willing to join me in this effort. Almost instantaneously well over 200 students jumped to their feet causing me to blurt out, “Now that’s a movement!”
While this past Friday night’s football victory was decisive, what happened after the game was even more special than what happened on the field of play. As the game ended, students poured out of the stands to grab trash bags from me and our dean of discipleship-- so much so that we ran out of trash bags to hand out. Within moments, both sides of the stadium were cleaned as students enthusiastically bent over and picked up other people’s trash.
Our dean of discipleship reported that when he took a group of students over to the visitors’ side of the field, the opposing parents asked if these students were in trouble or how we assigned students this job. When he simply said, “No, they volunteered,” the parents were shocked at his response. But isn’t that what selfless love in a self-centered world does after all?
Students were excited to see that in less than 10 minutes, the whole stadium was cleaned up. They have agreed to do this at each football game, both home AND away. In fact, two guys quickly volunteered to be the “captains of trash collecting” at home AND away games. Thursday night, before the game, I had another young man email me and say, “You can count on me to be at every game picking up trash.” Last night, he was one of the last to leave the stadium until it was completely clean! After sharing this story with our BCS parents, one emailed me and said, "I now understand why my daughter was so excited to bring a trash bag to the football game!"
The heap of trash tells a beautiful story that actually has very little to do with picking up trash but instead is reflective of the hearts of a community of high students that willingly and joyfully responded to serve as an overflow of their love for Christ! “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)