Ed Thomas was a legendary high school football coach in a small town in Iowa. It wasn’t just his success under the lights on Friday nights that endeared him to the people of Parkersburg; Thomas was a father figure to his players, even years after they no longer played for him.
When an F5 tornado devastated their town, Thomas and his wife helped lead the rebuilding efforts. In addition to the work around town, Thomas also declared that his football team would play their first home game the next season on schedule, a game that was just over 100 days away. The field, scoreboard, concessions stand, and the bleachers were totally destroyed, and no one believed the coach’s goal could be accomplished.
The field had already been named after the coach, but most referred to it as the Sacred Acre because Ed Thomas had his field looking better than many Division I college fields. But now Ed Thomas Field and the entire campus looked like a war zone, and the town worried their school would be consolidated into another school. Thomas new that the sooner his team took the field at home, the quicker the town could recover, and the more likely they would be to avoid consolidation.
When the new season began the town packed out the new bleachers to see the Falcons take the field in what would be an undefeated season. That season also turned out to be Ed Thomas’s last.
Despite being a local hero and National High School Coach of the Year, Thomas was murdered by one of his former players who had been diagnosed with a mental illness and escaped from a mental hospital. The Thomas’ son Todd and his wife were on vacation in Jamaica when they heard the tragic news.
During their flight home they had a long layover in Miami in which they had to sit in the airport watching the news scroll on CNN, constantly updating about the coach’s death and the subsequent murder investigation. In Mark Tabb’s book The Sacred Acre, he describes the scene: “People around them went on about their business. Children laughed; couples bickered; a middle-aged guy a few seats down took a nap…No one had any idea who they were or how much each news report hurt them.”
Paul told the church to bear each other’s burdens. There are people all around us who are hurting, but when we keep to ourselves we miss the opportunities to help them. We need to intentionally get out of our comfort zone, find out what people are going through, and love them like Jesus. Look for someone you can minister to today.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.