Why did Barry Sanders retire so abruptly from the Detroit Lions in 1999? Amazon Prime recently released Bye Bye Barry, a 90-minute documentary to relive the glory days and reminisce about what could have been. By the end of the film, Barry concedes that it was the team trading away his favorite teammates and their constant losing ways that caused him to walk away.
I’ve always felt there was a deeper reason, one that Barry may not want to admit. I’m sharing it with you in hopes of making your Christmas brighter.
When Barry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his father had the honor of introducing him, and he did so by stating that Barry was the third best running back ever (behind his childhood hero, Jim Brown, and behind himself, and he never even played college ball). It was intended to be a joke, but I cringed when I saw it in the documentary, almost 20 years later.
Barry’s father used to make the same joke whenever he was asked about Barry’s accomplishments during his career. Whether Barry ran for 200 yards in a game, 2,000 yards in a season, or too spectacularly to put into words, his dad was always quick to joke that he still wasn’t as good as Jim Brown.
Barry was on pace to become the leading rusher of all time in his 11th season, breaking the record that took Walter Payton 13 seasons to set. His retirement on the eve of training camp mooted that possibility.
I have always thought that Barry retired because he didn’t want to ascend to that summit, inarguably becoming the best running back ever, only to hear his father say he still isn’t good enough.
As parents, we have such a unique opportunity to use the power of our spoken words to bless others, especially our spouse and children. Let’s acknowledge the pain that sarcasm causes. “Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, ‘I was only joking!'” (Proverbs 26:18-19).
The world has enough stress and strife in it. As we gather with family and friends to celebrate the gift of our Savior over the next week, let’s give them the gift of our encouragement and support, with a hearty laugh and soft words. If you want a life hack that will significantly improve your relationships with the people who surround you, treat sarcasm like Covid and stay far from it. You will enjoy the results for years, and even generations, to come.

Congratulations, Scholars!
Samaritan Scholars from six countries competed in a Christmas artwork contest. Below is the winner and a few of our other entries.

Zelalem is this year’s winner! A 12th grader in Ethiopia, he “finds solace in art,” said Selam Kahsay, our Health and Wellness Specialist. “He expresses himself through drawing, creating string art, and acting in theatre. Unfortunately, his family faces numerous challenges.”

Both Zelalem’s parents struggle with health conditions. They lived in a makeshift home near the Kore garbage dump before they were forced to vacate. Then, his father built them a clay home, but that house was destroyed during the rainy season. Fortunately, the family had help through a temporary place to rent.

Despite the challenges, Zelalem remains hopeful. “Previously plagued by constant anxiety, I now have the opportunity to pursue my education with a clear mind and continue honing my artistic skills,” he said. “My parents plan to return and rebuild our home.”

“My Christmas experiences were rather different,” Sammarra told us, after submitting this artwork. “Usually, family members would gather in my grandmother’s yard. The adults would cook food, music would be played, and we would just relax and eat the mouth-watering foods prepared. Even though gifts were rarely exchanged, we always enjoyed each other’s company.”

This Christmas is a special one for Maria, one of our Samaritan Scholars in Honduras. Along with sending us this beautiful artwork, she just completed her high school degree, with a focus on banking and finance! Now, Maria has job prospects and dreams for where this degree will take her. 

“This picture shows peace in our country. On Christmas day, we celebrate together to remember the birth of Jesus. We show peace because we celebrate even with our enemies and make them our friends,” wrote Owen, a 15-year-old Samaritan Scholar in Kenya. Owen loves drawing, playing football, and he aspires to be an engineer. 

“For me, to live in peace is to live in harmony, without any problems, and without more violence in a world full of love,” says Denis, one of our Samaritan Scholars in Honduras. Denis may only be 7 years old, but his mom says he has enjoyed drawing from a very early age. 

Mike Tenbusch, IntSam President

Mike joined International Samaritan in 2018 after two decades of leading social change in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He’s a University of Michigan Law grad and author of The Jonathan Effect: Helping Kids and Schools Win the Battle Against Poverty. He and his wife, Maritza, have three children who keep them young.

Growing Together

In early May, 12 of us from St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor traveled to Honduras to spend a...

Holy Ground

Last week, I was in Uganda to see the land that we had just purchased next to the dumpsite there...

Days to Commemorate

This week we celebrated Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United...

A Friend of Honduras

To meet Dr. Ken Coleman is to find a new friend, which I discovered while spending time with him...

A Star in the Making

When we set out to make a difference in Uganda, little did we know we would be witnessing the...

After 30 Years

Thirty years ago this summer, International Samaritan began when Fr. Don Vettese, S.J. and a car...