I got this email today from Mark Bergel, founder of A Wider Circle. It was beautiful, so I wanted to share it. A Christmas StoryI left work just in time last night to make it to Whole Foods, a place where I typically experience a world in which poverty is not the first thought, as it is the rest of the day and night.As I stood in an aisle, with two people between the shelf and the food choices I waited to make, the two separated and went separate ways. In front of me, however, was not food, but a woman whom I had known as the first person for whom A Wider Circle ever did a group volunteer service effort back in 2002. Alice stood there, now an employee of Whole Foods, and looked at me as I at her, and we embraced.I have stayed in touch off and on with Alice over the years, and with her children, as well. I have known them since the oldest child was nine years old. I have known the older boy since he was five. He has one of those youthful mustaches – at least he did when I saw him two years ago.Having just spent the day giving out holiday presents – and having been involved in giving out presents to thousands of children and adults in the past month – I was ready to talk holidays with Alice. I asked her after our hug if the family was ready for a big holiday tomorrow. She smiled.Alice’s English is just a tad better than my Spanish, so things get lost in translation. I wanted to follow up, so I asked if the kids all had presents. Shy as ever, she just tilted her head down to the left and shook it just a bit side to side, a pained smile on her face.Hoping we were just not understanding each other, I asked again.“Do the kids have presents?”“No,” she said softly.“None?” Alice and I go back a ways; we furnished and painted their home and I have spent many days with them over the years, though none since 2010. I was not worried about pushing a bit to find out how they were doing this Christmas Eve.“No,” she repeated.“Do you have a tree?”“Yes.”“You have a tree?”“Yes, but nothing under it.”I repeated what she had told me and then asked if the kids were home so I could talk to them. Alice gave me the home phone number and seconds later, I was on the phone with her 16-year-old son, a person I knew to be a proud young person, meaning I was unsure how he would react to my offer.I did not know if he would be too cool, or mixed with embarrassment and teen disinterest, if he would shrug it off and not express a desire to come over the A Wider Circle in the morning to get items.He was not too cool, and he was not disinterested.When told that he and the whole family could come early tomorrow, Christmas Day, to get presents, he was excited, much more so than I expected.“That would be awesome. Thank you so much!”It seemed music to his ears, and it was music to mine, as well. I would get to see family on Christmas Day.As Alice and I parted, I thought immediately of the generosity of the entire community, including the woman from a local church who brought over hundreds of dollars in gift cards Monday afternoon – “just in case.” Many of the gift cards would be good for teenagers, a somewhat “forgotten” demographic in holiday giving programs.I thought of this woman’s fellow congregants and how they had collected so many gifts and gift cards for our holiday program.I thought of the temple that had provided so many gifts that we had enough for today – a day on which Alice’s family would join the many others that called for holiday help right up until I left the office last night to go to Whole Foods.A tree with nothing under it.A metaphor for our work.Even with homes, even with jobs, our neighbors are living in a different world. We bridge that world – for mothers, fathers and their children – when we connect and stay connected. It is a lesson worthy of today – and every day.All the best on this special day –Mark
Teams: #7 Oklahoma State 1-0 (0-0) vs. Arizona 1-0 (0-0)Time: 7:06 PM CSTTV: ESPNOn the call: Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, Craig James (yay!), and Jenn BrownFor entertainment purposes:Spread: OSU -13.5Over/Under: 6666 is the highest line in the country this week (Va. Tech ECU is 64 and Tulsa Tulane is 63.5) which would be disconcerting except that these teams combined for 102 last week and are ranked #1 and #23 nationally in yards per game. I don’t really know what to do with over/unders for OSU this year because I absolutely envision them hanging 60 on everybody but I think the defensive front is also exponentially better than they were last year which limits opponents’ point production.I’ll say OSU covers 13.5 and the game goes over (something like 54-28), but mostly because it’s a Thursday night and, well, we’ve all seen the last two Thursday night games.What you need to know about Arizona:It’s hard to be walking wounded going into week 2 but somehow Stoops’ side has pulled it off. According to this report, their best skill position player Juron Criner didn’t even make the trip to Stillwater. Last week, Nick “I bet you didn’t know I started my career at Michigan State” Foles threw 5 TD to five different receivers en route to their rout over Northern Arizona. Oh, and one of their corners (Trevin Wade) is the NCAA’s active leader in career INT with 11.Player to watch on Arizona:It’s funny to me that Foles gets the run that he does. His stats last year (67% | 3191 yards | 20 TD) paled in comparison to Weeden’s. And yet somehow they’re equivalent on a national level. I’ll say Wade is the player to watch, partly to be a contrarian and partly to see what Blackmon does to victim #14.Last year:I felt like Arizona mailed it in pretty hard in the Alamo Bowl last year. That didn’t feel like it was a good representation of how solid their team actually was. Weeden didn’t have his best game ever (only 240 yards) but he didn’t need to because Foles threw three picks and Blackmon went 9 | 117 yards | 2 TD.A few stats you should know:Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden have more passing yards than any two other quarterbacks in college football right now. Granted, it’s only been one game…OSU is 10-10 inside the red zone this year.OSU used 72 players against Louisiana. Something tells me that number won’t be so high tonight.Video to get you ready:Since we’ve got intro videos on the mind. I loved this one. The one-handed bad bounce D’Juan catch against Texas was maybe an all-time top ten football play for me. I thought we were going to get to rush the field that night. Alas.What I’m excited for:There will be approximately [fill in arbitrary number of OSU and Arizona alumni who care about football + 10-15 college football media members] watching this game what with the NFL kicking off and Obama coming on to tell us how crappy we all are at creating labor for each other. Thursday night ESPN games are great (I like them about 1000x better than Friday night ones) but this has to be the least interested the country will be as a whole in any of them all year.That said, I’m excited for the Cowboys to show the 10-15 college football media members I mentioned previously how legitimate this program is this year. I want an evisceration. I’m also excited (nerdy as this is about to sound) to be on Twitter during the game. National TV + Twitter + OSU fans across the globe = big win for me.OSU will win if:Its defense even remotely thinks about showing up. Is it odd to anyone else that we’ve reached a point in our program where we’re expected to smoke high-level opponents from BCS conferences like they don’t even exist? Is this what it feels like to be a USC or Ohio State fan?Uniform prediction:If you’re looking for the comments section, it has moved to our forum, The Chamber. You can go there to comment and holler about these articles, specifically in these threads. You can register for a free account right here and will need one to comment.If you’re wondering why we decided to do this, we wrote about that here. Thank you and cheers! As I said last week I don’t want to patronize you with these game previews. I’m going to go out on a limb and say you didn’t wake up today wondering, “hmmmmm, I wonder how many sacks Arizona allowed on the left side of their line last year…” Or maybe you did…if so you can head over to Go Pokes and read Robert Allen’s hyper-intense breakdown.If not though, and because I think you’re here to be entertained, I’m going to give you previews that pique your interest. What’s the spread? What’s the over/under? What are a few interesting stats I should know going in? Who are the other team’s best players? What channel can I watch the game on? That’s what we’re here for.