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The importance of showing up CONSISTENTLY with our generosity.

Are you a turkey person?

And no, I’m not talking about the makeup of your Thanksgiving dinner plate this week.

I’m talking about a question that when asked the first time went on to change the life of the individual that heard it. And years later when I heard it, did the same for me.

It’s a question that’s poised to reframe not just our understanding of what it means to serve and love others but one that can transform the effort we bring to our relationships, our work and our purpose in the world.

Think I’m exaggerating? Keep reading.

An 18-year-old man from North Memphis is three times more likely to be dead or incarcerated by age 21 than in college. With this statistic fueling him, a man named Bill Courtney sought to make a difference through coaching high school football in this community.

But he was failing.

Instead of a storybook season, he had a losing team with only 19 players, most of whom weren’t putting in any effort.

Bill wasn’t a stranger to the difficulties some of these students were experiencing. His Dad left when he was 4. His Mom’s 4th husband shot at him when he was 17. He didn’t have male role models at home, and instead he found them in the two places that went on to make the biggest difference in his life—the field and the classroom.

Today, Bill is a business owner, husband, and father who believes giving back isn’t a one-time flex—it’s a repetitive motion.

Which brings me back to turkey.

The struggling coach asked his team captain why there was so little engagement, and he learned it was because his players didn’t believe in him. They were worried he’d be like all the other people who were there to save them.  The type who show up once a year, roll down their windows, drop off a turkey for Thanksgiving, roll up their windows, and leave.

Then the captain asked him, “Are you a turkey person, Coach?”

The question stung because immediately he recognized in himself the tendencies his team captain described. It was an uncomfortable epiphany.  If his stint with the team was a stop-over on the way to something else—something more desirable, something easier, something more opportunistic- his effort, however, well-intentioned, wouldn’t stick. And because true service is never a one-way transaction, the turkey-person question went on to shape the arc of not only his life, but of every player that would cross his path for almost a decade.

During that first season, Bill recommitted himself, and as the players witnessed Bill showing up, so did they. The 19 players grew to 75; a losing program became a perennial winner; and most importantly, 35 of the 36 seniors in the last two seasons went to college.

Bill showed up for his players and community again and again and again. Bill is not a turkey person. And his story reminds us of the transformational power of steadfastly showing up for others.

This holiday season many of us will show up with turkeys—and winter coats and canned foods and end of year donations. And please hear this: that work is critical. It matters. It makes a mighty difference.

But in all those exchanges, and in every opportunity that follows, what if we asked ourselves, what other ways do we have to be generous? Can we be consistently generous with our grace? Our love? Our forgiveness? Our understanding?

Can we be a generous listener? Can we be generous with our encouragement of others?

Like with Bill, when you show up generously again and again, those that you serve are not only reminded that they matter, but they are also reminded of their own possibility to show up for others.

This is your day. Be generous. And Live Inspired.

7 replies on “Are You a Turkey Person?”

I posed your question to John, Clifford, and here is what he shared.

“It came down to this: A man who was going to use the semester to teach football before getting back to HIS life invested almost a decade coaching, loving and encouraging boys to recognize their value on and off the field.”

If you want to learn more about Bill’s remarkable story, I encourage you to check out Episode 28 on the Live Inspired Podcast: https://johnolearyinspires.com/podcast/archive/live-inspired-podcast-s3-ep-28-bill-courtney/

Thanks John – This is great and a wonderful reminder to me and my family. We appreciate you and I am very thankful for you sharing your story in Anderson SC this year. You are a true inspiration to many!

Mr. O’Leary,
Thank you for this encouragement to be invested in those we serve, and not just a contributor. Those family members and friends whom God has placed in our lives are opportunities to invest in them with what God has invested and entrusted in us.
Your encouragement message is a good message to remember as the holidays approach and we gather with those who live near to us, and who live far from us. Thank you, sir!

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