BYU plays Oregon tomorrow afternoon. As I'm sitting at my kitchen table and writing this newsletter, we're about 28 hours away from kickoff. I should be breaking down the top 25 match up between the Cougars and Ducks. I should be talking about how BYU's defensive line will need to take advantage of a couple of injuries on the Oregon offensive line. I should be talking about Bo Nix and how BYU needs to win first down and make Nix make decisions that aren't easy throws to the flat. Those things, and many other football related things, should be what is on my mind as I'm sitting here writing a newsletter the day before a big game.
But those things aren't the things that are on my mind right now. No, instead my mind is focused and overwhelmed with the goodness that I saw from humanity this week.
Two things happened to me this week that gave me a chance to see the best of what we have to offer as humans. If you're reading this, you probably are aware of one of those things already. The second thing happened quietly and in the background so you probably didn't hear much about it - at least not yet.
Humanity is good, folks. In a world that constantly tells us that humanity is not good, I am here to see that humanity is still really, really great.
Jeff Event #1: A Cordial Disagreement
We're not going to rehash what happened in the racist-slur-turned-not-slur-turned-fabricated-story-maybe event between Duke and BYU volleyball from a few weeks ago. You already know what happened as it has been discussed as nauseum on just about every outlet for weeks.
What you may or may not have heard was my take on the whole situation. The day the story broke, I jumped on the BYU statement, calling out the alleged racist as an asshole and that anyone who heard the alleged racist doing racist things without stopping them a coward. After the subsequent investigation took place, people called on me to apologize to 'the BYU student section for making generalizations and judgment about them.'
I said I will not apologize (something I still stand by today) because I didn't call out the entire student section. If you never heard racist slurs, then my 'coward' comment never applied to you anyways. If nobody heard racist slurs, then who am I apologizing to?
But that's not what happened to me this week.
Harper Anderson, of the Latter-day Takes Podcast, took to Twitter to call me out for my takes. He did so in a way that can only be described as peak-interneting. He took screenshots of my take (and the takes of others), called us fanboys, talked about us on his podcast and, essentially, called us out for what our take was.
In true peak-internet fashion, I responded with my own layer of sarcasm and sass when I said, "OH NO NOT HARPER ANDERSON!!"
A few days later, he posted the next episode of his show (Maybe the first episode of his show and the initial round was just Twitter? I don't remember, but it really doesn't matte...) and he talked about the response from the internet to his initially sassy tweet.
He took to the internet again, took a clip from the newly published show, and used some kissing face emojis to tag us (us being the initial group of people he called out) in his next tweet.
This time I responded a little different and asked if we could do a show together or have some sort of conversation and talk to face-to-face (er, via Zoom). Now, I could sit here and tell you that I did this with the best of intentions, but I'll be honest about it - I didn't think he'd say yes. And if he did say yes, I was ready to argue and fight about our takes.
But Harper responded kindly and agreed that we should talk this out. He wasn't sarcastic and he wasn't looking to pick a fight - at least not at this point in the story.
We had a conversation (that was also recorded and will be published on his his podcast platform). I didn't change his mind and he didn't change mine either. I don't want to speak for Harper, but I think we did accomplish something really great in our conversation. We allowed ourselves to see things through a different paradigm. It didn't change our end opinions, necessarily, but it allowed ourselves to consider different perspectives.
Candidly, it was something that we don't see much of in humanity anymore and we especially don't see it on the internet.
Credit to Harper for being willing to have the conversation. It was good. We'll chat again in the future. We're not enemies, we just see things differently. He isn't wrong with what he believes and neither was I. We were just different. The only thing wrong would be to assume that our paradigm is the only paradigm.
Stephen Covey used to talk about paradigms. I could summarize it for you, but it's best you hear it from him.
I got to see that paradigm shift in action this week. It wasn't as dramatic as the story of kids on a subway, but it was just as real and just as impactful for me.
If you read this, Harper, a sincere thank you. People can disagree and still move forward.
Jeff Event #2: An Overwhelming Amount Of Prayers And Goodness
My youngest kid, Dax, had a bout with pneumonia this week. I suppose it's more accurate to say that he is continuing to fight his bout with pneumonia, but he's so much better today than he was a few days ago that it feels like it's over. It's not quite over, but it's not worrisome anymore.
Earlier this week, I was worried. I never considered that Dax's pneumonia fight was life-threatening, I don't think we ever got to that point, but it definitely wasn't fun. He couldn't sleep. He was miserable. His oxygen levels were in the low 80s and even while on a nebulizer, we struggled to get those levels to 90%. If we did hit 90%, they dropped very quickly after the breathing treatments were over.
The little dude was miserable. Four-year-old kids shouldn't ever suffer any kind of suffering ever. They are still too pure and it's always heartbreaking.
I tweeted a picture of Dax while he was sitting with my wife and meeting with doctors. The dude looks miserable, and the picture took off.
I heard from literally thousands of people over the course of the next few days.
BYUSportsNation gave Dax a special shout out.
UteZone.com had a full thread dedicated to sending positive vibes and giving updates on Dax's progress.
A few BYU football players and coaches reached out to let me know they were praying for Dax.
Media members sent me their well-wishes and positive thoughts.
Literally thousands of people sent me messages or texts to let me know they were thinking of Dax and praying for a speedy recovery. Most of these people were strangers, or at minimum, people I'd only had minimal interaction with on the internet.
But when my son was suffering, they cared.
People prayed for Dax. People prayed that my wife would be comforted and supported during the ongoing battle with the sickness. People prayed for me, that I would feel peace and be able to find a few moments of rest.
People sent meals. People offered their advice from when they went through similar circumstances. People made suggestions and recommendations for the best ways to comfort my son.
People were amazing. Every time I looked at my phone or at my computer, there were more people who cared about my family.
There are no words to describe that feeling.
All of these things and a hundred other words were the emotions that I have felt all week.
Thank you. To all of you.
Humanity Is Awesome If We Seek It Out And We Allow It To Be
It's easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking that humans are growing further and further apart. I think that's what people want us to believe. In the name of ratings or political points or followers on social media, humans want you think there are sides to everything. We're conditioned to believe that we have to be on the left or the right, red or blue, religious or not, or any other number of made up ways to divide ourselves. We are trained to believe that we are all so different from one another that it's impossible to love each other. How can you love someone who is so dramatically different from you?
But we're not that different. And this week proved that to me. Even when we disagree, we're still humans, and understanding each other can build friendships. When suffering happens, all the made up lines between people go out the window and we help each other.
Humanity is still awesome.
People talk about how humanity has slipped in recent years and decades. After this week, I'm ready to say that they're wrong and that humanity hasn't slipped. Humanity is still as great as it has ever been.
What has changed is our capacity to let humanity into our lives.
Harper made a comment in our conversation. While acknowledging that he poked the social media bear with the way he called out our takes, he admitted that he was scared to ask us to have a candid conversation and explain our opinion.
Think about that, folks, one human was scared to ask another human to have a conversation about something that was important to both of them.
That's what has changed about humanity. We still want to be kind and to love, but the 'team lines' have us scared to let kindness and love lead. We're afraid to reach across the aisle and talk to someone on the 'other team.'
Dewey Gray talked to BYU's football team last week. He talked about love being the true motivator. Teammates sacrifice their egos or playing time or the glory of scoring touchdowns in the name of their teammates. They do so because they love them. They love them because they are people, not because they are good at football.
How much better would our lives feel if we let love lead? If we weren't afraid of openly and unabashedly loving our fellow humans simply because they were humans?
That seems hard to do, but after everything I saw this week, I know that's what I want to improve on. I know that's how I want to live.
I'm so thankful to all of you who lovingly cared about my humanity this week. I promise I will try to live up to the high standard that everyone set this week.
Humanity is still incredible, my friends. My sarcasm and sass will get in the way of my love-leading life sometimes, of that I'm sure, but you all filled my heart this week. And I want to live like each of you.