Today the most anticipated and unique golf tournament on the planet begins in Augusta, GA. This is the “Journey to Mecca” for golf fans. From every perspective, this event is undeniably special in its appeal and disciplined execution. After all, this is Bobby Jones’ tournament. Jones’ playing ability and generous contributions reshaped the game forever, although he chose to remain an “amateur” his whole life. He felt that turning professional would tarnish his pure love for golf. To this day, The Masters retains that uncompromising spirit, unique in all professional sporting events for its reluctance to align exploit “commercial” opportunities.
It’s also the toughest ticket in sports. An undisclosed number of tournament badges are sold each year to individuals who have long secured their standing. The early supporters of The Masters have renewed their badges for decades, passed them on in wills, and kept them well protected. When shared with family members and friends, tickets are always accompanied by clear guidelines. Guests know that if they break any official rule (such as bringing a cell phone or camera on the premises), the owner of the badge will lose Masters privileges forever.
Last February, I was asked by my good friends Kathy and Dave McCullum if I would consider speaking at their church. They were launching a stewardship campaign and wanted me to deliver a message appropriate for the occasion. I happened to be hired to speak in Savannah, GA the night before, so it was possible to visit their Augusta congregation on my way back home. I told Kathy I would gladly do the program to support their efforts and join in the fellowship.
The theme of my program was “It is impossible to give more than you receive.” I shared stories of my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, how I went to the Middle East with a desire to give something of myself, and returned home with treasures of experiences and memories. I spoke about a gift of vintage juggling clubs that was given to me by a stranger (who soon became a dear friend), and related how that single gift reshaped my career and touched the lives of thousands of others.
When I finished my presentation, the audience expressed their enthusiastic appreciation, which was all the thanks I needed. Then David took the stage and publicly acknowledged my efforts. “Dan came here to help us and give of his time and talent. To say thank you, Dan, we would like to give you a small gift.” He held up a gift bag, then reached in to produce an item.
“First, here is a coffee mug with our church logo on it.” I can use a new coffee mug, I thought.
“And here is a CD with music from our Praise Band.” Cool.
“And finally, here are two badges to a little golf tournament we hold in Augusta each April.” My jaw hit the floor.
That’s how I wound up at The Masters a year ago. Attending that tournament had long been a goal of mine, but I could never have anticipated how it would come about. What an unplanned and beautiful exclamation point to the message I came to affirm – it’s impossible to give more than you receive.
I’ll watch the tournament on TV this year, but I’ll be reliving my personal experiences: the breathtaking scenes of Azaleas in full bloom, the flawless greens and manicured fairways, the world’s best players producing their most inspired shots right before my eyes.
1. Give. Give your time, your money and your talents. Give from what you love and what you are good at. Give without expectation.
2. Watch what happens as a result. Witness the impact of your giving. Notice the feelings you get as a result.
3. Realize that what you can see is only a fraction of what really happens. Our giving creates ripple effects that go on farther than we can imagine, much less witness. You never know who ultimately benefits from your generosity, or who is inspired to help someone else.
Life is a gift. But in order for your gift to appreciate in value, it is not enough to appreciate the gift. You have to use it. Share it. Give it away. You’ll always receive more in return.
With admiration and gratitude,