There are several reasons I want Damar Hamlin to live.
So that he might have a family of his own, so that he might have a life’s work, so that he can use his talents to teach and serve, so that he can pursue his own happiness and find where it takes him, so that he might know the daily joys of a life well lived.
And so that he can see the powerful truths his adversity has retaught us all.
Together, on Monday Night Football, we saw a young man stricken and the frantic efforts to save his life. People in the stadium, people on the couch, people watching the news the next morning. We shared something.
This young man, and the fluke disruption of the electricity in his heart, took tens of millions of people, in a moment, to the same place. To a place of compassion and concern and fear. Experts told us what happened to his heart, reflection teaches us what happened to ours.
We cared, and we prayed.
Automatically, instantly, instinctively. It’s as if the curtain of pretense and presumption was ripped away and in an instant we were exposed for who we truly were – people who love our neighbor, and believe in God. In one of those litmus tests of character, we found out we are better than we look on TV.
As Damar Hamlin lay stricken on the field, the Bengals hand that reached out for a Bills hand was the metaphor of us all. The anonymous young man lying motionless on the turf became a lump in all of our throats.
In this divided, cold, heartless day, we were none of those things. We were not strangers and hostiles, we were brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, the family of man.
And we were people of faith.
In what is reputedly America’s most agnostic era, as religion and belief seem pushed far from the national consciousness, the collapse of Damar Hamlin brought an instant resort to prayer. Fans joined hands and bowed heads in the stadium, players knelt together midfield and on the sidelines, his team’s on-field leader tweeted out, “Please pray for our brother.”
And it wasn’t a figure of speech.
It was an earnest, honest beseeching of the Almighty.
And that presumes some things.
If you pray, it presumes that you believe in God. And that you can speak to him, and he will listen, and that he, in his wisdom and grace, can intercede in our lives to bless us as he sees best. Those are a lot of things to believe – wonderful things to believe – and such belief is most likely based on experience.
We called out to God to bless and save our brother Damar, but it wasn’t the first time he heard our voice, and it wasn’t the first time we sought the assistance and comfort of heaven. In fact, it seems this beseeching of the divine was familiar and comfortable to us, a shelter we had sought often, a home we held dear to our heart.
And that is good to know.
And it’s contrary to what we are told. In the popular media and the popular culture, we are told a different story, we are described as a different people. Progressive America is post religious, we are told, and people of faith are most often described, even by the government, as threats to safety and order, as extremists who are probably unstable. We have harassed religion out of the public square, vanquished it from the public school, and rooted out its public manifestations everywhere we can.
In the battle between good and evil, evil has good on the run and the institutions of power are doing the chasing. All part of a narrative of division and enmity, secularism and atheism.
And then a young man collapsed before us.
And we loved our neighbor and called upon our God.
By the millions and tens of millions. Players on the field, analysts on ESPN, fans in the stadium, Americans in their homes.
That’s who we are. That’s who Damar Hamlin revealed us to be.
We love our neighbor, and we believe in God. And that says something good about us, and our future.
Damar Hamlin is a Christian whose affliction has shown a nation that it still holds God close to its heart. He pulled back the prejudice against faith and showed that we believe what we've always believed -- that we have a loving Father in heaven, and beloved brothers and sisters all around.
And I pray he lives to see, in this life, the good he has done for us all.