In October 1979, a nine-year old boy by the name of Tommy Okun became an overnight sensation as a result of his role in a commercial with all-pro football player Joe Greene. In the “Have a Coke and a Smile” ad campaign, young Tommy asks the injured and dejected football star (as he walks off the field after a rough game) if he needs any help. Mean Joe Greene (as he was aptly known) turns down the help but later reconsiders the child’s generosity and accepts Tommy’s offer to share his soda. After downing the soda, Mean Joe drops his surly manner and appears to be instantly rejuvenated from the soda. In response to this positive feeling, Mean Joe tosses the young fan his team jersey with the now-famous tagline, “Hey kid, catch!” Now both the truculent football star and the timid young boy are smiling after this shared moment of joy.
Although it has been nearly forty years since this commercial was first aired, Joe Greene was recently back in the news long after after his twelve-year Hall of Fame football career concluded in 1981. In honor of his outstanding collegiate career, a statue of his likeness was recently unveiled at his alma mater - The University of North Texas. As an additional honor, Joe is credited as the only North Texas football player to wear the number 75 in over fifty years. That was until last weekend when his number was unretired and given for one game to current football player LaDarius Hamilton. This honor was given as a means in which to pay tribute to this young man and the qualities of leadership he offers others, both on and off the field.
Being just about Tommy Okun’s age when the commercial first aired in 1979, I clearly remember the impact of watching this sentimental exchange between Tommy and Mean Joe and his generous offer to help his idol. When Tommy admiringly shared with Joe that he thought he was “the greatest ever”, I began to reflect on the essential standing we play in the lives of our young people. As parents and teachers, our children look to us to teach and model the beliefs and practices of our faith. It is with this thought in mind that my colleagues and I recognize the awesome responsibility that we hold in teaching our students how to impact the lives of others through acts of direct service. To this point, on Friday, September 28, members of the St. Agnes faculty, staff and School Board spent their day in service at First Fruit Farms in Freeland, Maryland. On this day, members of TEAM AGNES harvested crops for soup kitchens and food pantries across our state. This hands-on project saw our team working the farm land in Hereford County as we picked corn, tomatoes and apples in support of the hungry and homeless of Maryland. At the end of the day, we dusted the dirt of our dungarees and took pride in the bountiful harvest that will feed our hungry brothers and sisters across the “old line state”. As I reflect on the joy of this special event, I couldn’t help but think how blessed we are to teach and model our faith as we create a culture at St. Agnes School which promotes Service Above Self.