Damar Hamlin is removed from Paycor Stadium in an ambulance as the Buffalo Bills, in white, kneel in prayer at the bottom left of the image.

Focusing on What Is Important

It has been wonderful to see our students back on campus after the Winter Break. The classrooms are buzzing with excitement and learning. I am ever grateful to be part of the Colorado Academy community.

Gratitude feels all the more important after what happened this week in professional sports.

Like so many Americans, I was struck by the tragedy that occurred during the recent Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals NFL game, when Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest after a tackle and had to be taken from the field by ambulance after receiving CPR. At the time of this writing, he is still in critical condition, although there are reports that he is now holding hands with family members. I am praying for him and his family. 

Watching the game live, it was a powerful moment. Here were two tough teams poised for a contest with significant consequences leading up to the postseason. But when players of both teams saw what happened—and I can only imagine how difficult it was to witness—they rallied together to do the right thing. They surrounded Hamlin to give him privacy from the cameras and the crowd. They openly displayed their emotions and concerns. They prayed together. The crowd fell silent, and inter-team rivalry no longer mattered.

Even the NFL did the right thing (not always a guarantee) by postponing the game. I am not sure they had much choice, as it was clear the players on both teams recognized that they could not possibly go back out on the field after something so terrible. 

When the broadcast cut to the announcers, all of the talking heads tried to put things in perspective: the game was no longer relevant; the only thing that mattered was Hamlin’s condition. During a press conference this week, the Bengals coach noted that when he ran over to check in with the Bills coach, Sean McDermott told him, “I need to be at the hospital with Damar. I shouldn’t be coaching this game.”

The incident and its aftermath remind us all not to take anything for granted. Earlier in the season, Hamlin’s friend and teammate Dane Jackson suffered a serious injury. In an interview afterwards, Hamlin told a reporter, “I can’t even describe it, but I cherish every second that I can, every second of every day.” During a weekly prayer among the Bills defensive backs, said Hamlin, he stood next to Jackson. “I just grabbed his hand a little bit harder, just because you never know when your last day could be that you get to experience something like this.”

It’s a hard quote to read, but I hope it encourages us to open our eyes and appreciate all the opportunities we have and the great things in our lives. Let’s try to adopt this mindset as we head into 2023.