On Friday night the entire globe stood alongside France in the wake of the horrific attacks. I must admit I had a tough time engaging normally in my everyday weekend activities, which typically consist of sports and writing. I felt guilty doing so knowing so many people just three thousand miles away were in such pain and mourning.
In the wake of such tragedies, it's normal to feel a level of hopelessness and disconnect. What happened in Paris was devastating. Far too many innocent lives were taken by cowards.
But as the weekend progressed, amongst the chaos, an emotional shift occurred. A community emerged as the world stood witness to regions around the globe voicing solidarity. In my world of sports, in particular, the tributes were stirring:
As soccer fans were evacuated from the Stade de France, they sang 'La Marseillaise' -- their national anthem.
The arch of Wembley Stadium in London was lit with French colors to show respect.
Student sections during college football game day wore blue, white, and red to pay homage to France's flag.
STUDENTS: Follow this guide for colors. It's not a blackout or a whiteout tonight, so let's show support for France. pic.twitter.com/iYHfn7OEWk-- Oh Varsity! (@OhVarsity) November 14, 2015
Army football took the field in a heartfelt tribute carrying the French flag.
New Orleans Pelican player Alexis Ajinca, who is from France, wrote "Pray for Paris" on his shoes before his game.
And in Montreal, where so many of the citizens are of French descent, the Canadiens provided one of the most moving tributes with a flowing French flag displayed on the ice as fans sang along to Les Marseillaise following a moment of silence.
These actions caused me to reflect on a quote I use often in my speaking engagements from Nelson Mandela, legendary South African activist and politician on the power of sports...
"...Sport has the power to inspire," Mandela said. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. Sport has the power to change the world"
Reflecting on this quote changed something for me. These actions and more importantly the unifying force of people from disparate walks of life pulling together as one, reminded me of the power of a team. And more importantly, the power that lies within the creation of a true community.
Whether you are the owner of a company, member of a team at work, play a sport or high-five as a fan; use this time of tragedy to reflect on the transformative and unifying power of the team or community where you belong. If your team is fractured, use this as a time to repair. Let the strength of your people serve as a powerful reminder of hope in the obstacles to come.
To quote Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in her thank you post on Facebook to cities around the world for showing support during her own city's tragedy...
..."We are united".