Epiphany 31


Professional football players and Bangambiki Habyarimana may not seem to have much in common.  One groups spends their time playing a football game.  The other is either writing another of his books, having already published eighteen, or working with young adults, educating them about HIV Aids as a community worker.


This is not the story of different men although they are.  It is the story about men who are helping children and young adults win in life.  Winning is, whether we admit it or not, something we all seek.  We might not all be trying to win a spot at the Super Bowl which will be played later today but we all want to win at something. 


Bangambiki Habyarimana writes books about personal growth, inspirational books and happiness and self-help.  Players like the recently retired Peyton Manning put a more private face on their charitable work with youth.  They live in affluent areas of the United States while Habyarimana works in his native homeland on the continent of Africa.  Yet, the both are winning the same game of life.  I think They all are living proof of author Bangambiki Habyarimana’s words: “When you say you can’t, you stop the creative powers in you; when you say you can you free them.”


This year during Epiphany we are talking about taking action and how the actions we take can affect not only us but our world.  The players and owners of American football teams have a long history of charitable acts.  Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts and for the Denver Broncos, a team owned by the Bowlen family with Pat Bowlen being the major stockholder. 


Born in Wisconsin, Pat Bowlen is an attorney and member of the Canadian Bar, among other things.  Born into a family that became wealthy while he was still a child, Bowlen set about making his own place in the world.  Under his ownership the Broncos have won seven AFL Championships and two Super Bowls, all since 1984.  More impressive, they have raised millions of dollars for Denver’s poor and homeless populations.  He is also one of the largest contributors to the University of Denver, helping to promote educational opportunities for all students.


Manning, as I mentioned, does not flaunt his charitable work.  He never mentions that fact that there is a hospital named after him, the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Even after leaving Indiana and moving to Colorado, Peyton Manning continued to support the hospital and, perhaps most importantly, continued to interact with the young patients there.  Once he has the parents’ approval, Manning calls the young patients and then lets them talk.  The PayBack Foundation in Denver provides Thanksgiving meals to low income families in both Denver and Indianapolis and yes, Manning is heavily involved in it. His foundation gives over one million dollars annually to various groups.  Manning donates time and energies to the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as the local Community Development.


Living on a continent where there are countries where it is illegal to speak with people with Aids or HIV, Bangambiki Habyarimana risks it to help young adults stay alive.  Every day he goes out makes him a winner.  As American rodeo cowboy and barrel racer Doug Firebough once said, “Winning is life is more than just money; it’s about winning on the inside and knowing that you have played the game of life with all you had….and then some.”


Winning does not instantly happen, though, and sometimes that is exactly what we think should happen.  One of my favorite quotes from Habyarimana is this:  “success sits on a mountain of mistakes.” In other words, you have to accept that you are not always going to win.  What makes a winner is that failure is just a step towards winning, not a dead end.


We all can take action and help others.  First, we must help ourselves.  That starts when we adopt a winning attitude.  Perhaps each step will not result in what we wanted but we can make it successful as long as we keep trying.  As writer Johnnie Dent, Jr reminds us:  “God will not allow you to add the words “Next time” to now faith. 


For one of the two teams playing in today’s Super Bowl, today will be a good day to be a winner.  For both teams, today will be a great day to win and both teams, by virtue of playing in this game, are winners.  We should all try because winning is not just determined by who takes home a trophy.  It is the label given to all who made the effort.  Today is the time to make the effort to win.


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