3 Lessons Learned From Cleaning Up After 100,000 People

Michigan Stadium

They don’t call Michigan Stadium the “Big House” for nothing!

When 100,000+ people congregate there is usually a big mess to clean up, but when a 100,000+ meet in the Big House in Ann Arbor Michigan on a Saturday afternoon you can bet there will be a big mess. Regardless of the stadium you grew up attending, have you ever thought up who cleans up the mess…someone has to do the work to make it presentable next week?.

[ Flashback]

The year was 1980, and I was freshman in high school at Gabriel Richard. GR was a small Catholic high school in Ann Arbor working from a shoestring budget with little money was provided by the Arch Diocese for athletics. An extra Bingo night for helmets and shoulder pads was not an option as each parish in the community competed for the revenue the loyal Washtenaw County Bingo patrons could provide each week. Faced with a great need and a limited budget, someone asked the question:

“Who cleans up Michigan Stadium after the game?”

This simple question led to a fund raising relationship with the University of Michigan which has spanned for over forty years.

Michigan Stadium CleanUp RakeOur wake-up call came at 6:30 am, with my Dad rousing us from sleep to bundle up because we were going to be outside for the next 3-4 hours. Usually we were coming to life up as we arrived at the Big House, the largest stadium of it’s kind. US. Each family was assigned a section to clean and without debate you went out to tackle the task at hand.

My little sister and brother were charged with picking up the bottles and glass which were placed on the bleachers for pick up later. Dad and Mom would rake each row to the aisle where I scooped up and bagged what came my way…row after row. And while we might have finished with our section the job wasn’t complete until the stadium was cleaned, one section at a time, with every family pitching in to help. When the work was finally done we celebrated Mass, we drank coffee and hot chocolate, and we ate donuts.

It was expected, but not required, for you to be there if you had anything to do with athletics. Players, cheerleaders, and band members worked side by side along with their families cleaning up trash to raise money so they could play, cheer, or perform. Yet many were there long past their playing days were over and their children had graduated because they believed in the cause…Gabriel Richard Athletics.

We were a community doing something for the good of the community and it felt good then and it is something 30+ years later I’m proud of now! 

3 Life Lessons From Those Days 

    • Tasks which look impossible to you become possible when viewed through the eyes of a team who share a collective vision.
    • A leader who asks for participation, yet does not participate in the effort, is a leader who has a hard time finding followers he can lead in the future. .
    • You don’t have to directly benefit from something to gain something from the effort you put into it.

Share a time where you participated in an effort or volunteered for a cause where you derived no benefit from the effort…how did it make you feel?


trusting God period! 

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