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Thanksgiving Pinch

Naturally, the holiday season takes our busy lifestyle and revs it into a new gear. We’ve pre-ordered this and re-ordered that… We’ve probably even started dropping hints to loved ones about a desired gift or two.

But I want to urge you to reserve some of your time for pinching this holiday season. No, I’m not referring to penny-pinching, but something far more self-sustaining. The importance of this pinching concept came to me last weekend during a visit with the New England Patriots. Last Saturday at the practice field adjacent to Gillette Stadium, Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady stood on the sidelines after his team’s last walkthrough for the next day’s game with the Indianapolis Colts. But the 3-time Super Bowl Champion was hardly the main attraction that day. There, Brady and tight-end Rob Gronkowski (and ultimately every teammate) were surrounded by four young Patriots fans. All four kids were living out their dreams through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. My purpose for the visit was to get more perspective for a current book project titled “Wish Granted” in which many of today’s star athletes reveal some of their greatest moments from working with the foundation.

On the edge of the practice field, there also stood a team employee snapping photos of the event. She’s worked in the franchise for a number of years and has captured many of Patriots’ community and charity events.

As we stood there watching the kids interact with their larger-than-life football heroes, she said to me, “I’m with these guys everyday and sometimes I just don’t remember how cool this is… how awesome this is!”

I replied: “Do you ever just pinch yourself? Just appreciate for one second how lucky you are to experience moments like this?”

Her response: “We work long days and… no, I guess I don’t.”

The event continued and Tom Brady stayed there for what felt like an hour making sure that these kids and their families felt like champions. He threw passes, caught passes, and signed autographs on anything and everything they handed him. Whether parent, kid or volunteer, there wasn’t a dry eye on that sideline.

Then, when most of us had regained control of our emotions, a four-year-old girl named Maddie decided to score one for the home team. This little girl from the state of Washington, a successful bone marrow transplant recipient, looked up at Brady and said, “I’ve been following you my whole life.”

As he went to one knee to look her in the eye, Brady flashed the same smile that has landed him countless endorsement deals and a supermodel wife, but wasn’t quite ready for little Maddie’s next line. Her mother said, “Maddie, don’t you have something you’ve been wanting to say to Tom Brady?” Maddie paused and nervously put her knuckle in her mouth before finally saying, “Hubba hubba!” As laughter erupted from the group, the two-time Super Bowl MVP grinned from ear to ear at the little four year-old and said, “Now you gonna make me blush?”

The event ended after several more heartwarming displays of affection from the Patriots superstars and their pint-sized fans. As we walked back from the practice field to the stadium, that same employee looked at me and said, “Today I’m going to pinch myself.”

What a reminder… Too often we don’t take time to be grateful for what we have and for the amazing things we get to do. We often undervalue the people we get to interact with—like little Maddie or big Tom Brady.

Today, I hope you pinch yourself…and enjoy a moment of Thanks. After you pinch yourself, tell us why.

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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