The scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium showed the final score as 52-0. Auburn had won decisively over Samford University located in Birmingham. It was a miserable day with rain blowing sideways in the stadium.
Across the country it was called “Cupcake Saturday” as the top college football teams paid significant dollars to play smaller schools in preparation for the end of season rivalry games. For those that do not follow Auburn, that means the annual Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.
As is often the case, the scoreboard did not tell the entire story. Half of Auburn’s team and most of Samford’s team played against each other in high school. The hugs after the blowout win were genuine. They showed the bond and respect that athletes have for each other over time.
The scoreboards of our life start early. You want the best kindergarten for your kids. In larger, more competitive communities, the kindergarten is a gateway into the best elementary school. You get in high school and you compete for the best GPA and the best SAT or ACT scores.
If you attend college, the scorecards only get more intense. If you elect to enter the workforce after high school the story is the same. You are competing against those like you, who want the same job and pathway to success.
As adults you may not realize it, but you are still playing the game, still trying to have the highest score. You are measured by the how much money you make, the size of your house, and the car you drive. You are judged by the clothes you wear, the places you vacation, the restaurants you visit and the people you associate with.
In this particular season of Thanksgiving, Americans find ourselves in a time of turmoil. Friends, family and foes find themselves on the opposite side of political discourse. We are willing to sacrifice friendships, and to some extent family, to be on top of the political scoreboard. It is more important to win than to listen to each other.
Is this how we want to be defined on this most American of holidays, Thanksgiving? In these politically divisive times, let us consider changing the scoreboard. Let us alter how we measure success.
Are you an American first? What does that mean? Do you value family, honesty and integrity above all else? Do you believe that America is still that beacon on a hill for those that seek freedom? Do you believe that all men (and women) are created equal?
I am thankful that over 300 years ago an immigrant named Ponder boarded a ship called the St. Charles to leave England and head to the colonies in America. I am thankful that 10 generations later I met and married a descendant of the very same man.
I am thankful that I had parents that taught me the value of hard work, honesty, and integrity. I am thankful for the friends I grew up with and how they shaped my life. I am thankful for the friends I met in college that shaped me even further. I am even more thankful for the friends I have met during my life in Donalsonville and Southwest Georgia.
I am thankful for the many people that worked with me and for me. They touched me and influenced me all along the way. Incredibly over these many years these former employees number several thousand which humbles me beyond measure.
I am thankful for the faith that has sustained me in good times and bad. I am thankful that prayers are answered and even more that I believe in the power of that prayer.
What is the scoreboard that we gauge ourselves by long after the football games are over? What do the handshakes we make at the end of the games of life say about us? Do they reflect who we are, and who we aspire to be?
The scoreboard of your life is much more complicated and yet, much simpler. The best thing is that the clock has not indicated the fourth quarter is over. Your best work may be yet to come.
This Thanksgiving Day be thankful for the many blessings that have come your way. Pray for guidance and opportunities that will allow you to be a blessing to others moving forward.
Happy Thanksgiving and continued prayers that the scoreboard of your life will give others a reason to be thankful for you.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org