My favorite definition of football is 22 people desperately in need of rest being watched by 80,000 people desperately in need of exercise—and that’s just in the stadium. On Sunday, millions of folks will gather in front of TVs in homes and sports bars to watch the survivors of a long season go at it.
In 1990, Brad Smith, a seminary intern at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., said a simple prayer: "Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat." That prayer inspired the birth of a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world. They chose to use the Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy. The idea that sprang from that prayer was to have youth collect donations at their schools and churches in soup pots, and then send every dollar directly to a local charity of their choice.
The youth of Spring Valley Presbyterian liked the idea so much they decided to invite other area churches to join the team. Twenty-two Columbia churches participated that first year, reporting their results so a total could be determined, and then sending all $5,700 they had raised to area non-profits. That was 1990. Since then, ordinary young people have generated an extraordinary amount, millions of dollars for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the country. In addition, hundreds of thousands of youth have experienced for themselves the joy and satisfaction of giving and serving, inspiring people of all ages to follow their generous example.
The first NFL team owners to support the Souper Bowl of Caring were Bob and Janice McNair of our Houston Texans in 2004. More than watching two groups of grown men wrestling with each other on the gridiron, you can help put food on a griddle.
In our church, like many others, we have a food pantry that benefits from the Souper Bowl of Caring. If your church is participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring, make a special effort to attend and give generously. Won’t you join with those who have been giving and make this year the best ever answer to that 1990 prayer?
For more information about the Souper Bowl of Caring see www.souperbowl.org, or visit their Facebook page. The Houston office is located at 6260 Westpark Drive, Suite 260. You can also email email@example.com or call 800-358-SOUP to register your group.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Gill is the pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church at 3900 N. Main in Baytown. For more information see www.presbees.com.