Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow came to St. Vincent de Paul this past week, along with a group from Kindli. It was a big deal. Not many visitors come to south Phoenix. Even fewer come to a homeless shelter. They were among the few exceptions. Tim wanted the opportunity to be with our guests, those who live in our shelter. Those who live on the streets.
In addition to his words of encouragement and support, Tim brought 50 pairs of new shoes to distribute to our guests, one of whom exclaimed “New shoes, and it's not even Christmas!”
As often happens, we had more guests that day than we did shoes. Instead of saying, I’m sorry, Tim and the Kindli representatives took peoples' names and promised to get back to us with shoes for everyone. True to form, we received the shoes two days later, the only surprise was just how many additional pairs we were provided. We don’t see that type of generosity too often.
Tim ended up staying longer than expected. Whatever he had to do next was simply going to wait. He took time with each person to make them feel special. Really special. And while he no longer has the platform of a professional athlete, his message is as powerful as ever: “You are one of one. God loves you. And so do I.” We don’t hear these words so much anymore. That is our loss. All of us.
If you ask me, or many of our guests, Tim has gone from professional athlete to Super Hero in just a few years. His actions off the field are as impressive as any last minute touchdown pass, or game-winning home run. I think we all can agree on that.
I will remember many things about Tim’s visit to St. Vincent de Paul - the kindness, the enthusiasm, the smiles through the masks, the new shoes, all the men and women who felt really special that an out-of-town visitor came to be with them. But what I will remember most though, was when Tim realized we were out of shoes, he quietly removed his own pair and gave them to a homeless man who wore a similar size. It all transpired in the briefest of moments, but it was a lesson in leadership, a lesson in love, that I won’t soon forget.