Elliot and Douger have something in common.
We’ve been reading and hearing a lot about Elliot Uzelac these days. He’s the fine American football coach, with a history in the pros and in college football, who at the age of 74 decided to serve as head coach at Benton Harbor High School.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, the high school is located in a community fraught with problems, and all of those problems were reflected in the history of the local high school football team. Prior to this season, the team had won only 4 games in 8 years!
Uzelac had a successful and productive career as a football coach. But he couldn’t resist this challenge. Within days after assuming his new position, things began to turn around. And after the last game was played, the team was able to boast about its first winning season in 25 years! The team even went on to win its first game ever in the playoffs!
There’s a much bigger story here. The kids learned a lot more than how to win football games. They learned that regardless of skin color, there are people who care. Thanks to the coach and his wife, who took it on herself to see that these hungry players in a low-income community received good meals, self-esteem has risen to the surface for the first time in decades. And it extends far beyond the team…it radiates all through this battered and abused community. Hope and pride now fill a huge gap that was prevalent in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Here’s my take on all this. All his years of coaching at the college and professional level were simply God’s way of preparing him to take on this challenge: serving the downtrodden. His last career, the one at age 74, is the one with real meaning.
Said Elliot: Kids are worth it!
I’m thinking about all of this on the morning of my 79th birthday.
My two earlier careers were not nearly as noteworthy as those of Coach Uzelac. But I loved both of them. I began my career in radio as a part-time announcer, disc jockey and newsman, in 1954. I ended it as a radio station owner in 1983. Throughout my broadcasting career, I tried to focus on small market excellence, especially in radio journalism, and focused on helping, what I called, “the little guy.” There were awards. Local. State. National. That plus a buck will get you a senior coffee.
After that I served a fine local dealership as a church organ sales representative. As an active church musician it was an extension of something I love, and I was proud to have been involved in improving and enhancing the music programs and worship services of more than 200 churches over a 21-year period. At our peak, our little dealership reached national recognition as the dealer of the year. Worth another senior coffee.
But as I reflect on it, as in Elliot’s case, this was God’s way of preparing me for my third, final, and most important career: extending a cup of cool water in the name of Jesus to prisoners: serving the downtrodden. This is the one with real meaning.
Says Douger: Prisoners are worth it!
Elliot and Douger. Right where God put them.