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We Can Do More Than Watch the NFL This Weekend

Syria’s civil war has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced over 11 million people since 2011. Better descriptions than I could ever write exist detailing the war’s timeline, its origins and terror, and the ideologies of its factions. I encourage doing so.

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America’s favorite distraction kicks off Thursday. Right now, the start of another NFL season seems secondary, as sports should when measured with the same tape as the real crises afflicting us. I fear, though, that sometimes this perspective is lost.

I’m not here to condemn sports. I love them, especially football, and believe sports instill values of teamwork, sacrifice, loyalty, and commitment through moments that reverberate our hearts and instruct our minds after the act of instruction itself has passed. They have for me. And I know that without them I would lack the same capacity to care.

Which is why I’m considering numbers on the eve of a new season.

Did you know, the combined seating capacity for the 16 home teams during the NFL’s opening weekend is 1.1 million? And that more than 100 million more will watch on TV?

Imagine if each NFL team gave $1.00 of every ticket to a relief organization aiding Syrian refugees. That equals $1.1 million donated.

Imagine if only 50% of us watching football at home offered that same $1.00. That donation would equal more than $50 million. The precedent is not crazy. The world’s other prominent football teams have already donated millions.

Look, I understand that checkbook philanthropy – especially four years into this horrific crisis – can be condemned as the simplest and least impactful way to assist. In many ways, it’s an easy-out meant to appease one’s guilt. Besides, the U.S. has already donated more than $4 billion to Syria only to witness the need necessary to support the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era swell.

Against this backdrop, it’s easy to question the worth of any single dollar. Why continue giving when the crisis only worsens? What good will it do anyways?

Well, here are more numbers on Syria to help answer those questions.

Every day more than 2,000 people place their lives at risk to flee the war-ravaged nation now too deadly to call home.

$140 provides a cash lifeline for a family of three to five for one month. $1,500 can support a family for one year.

$5,500 can refurbish a classroom and pay a teacher’s annual salary. $17,000 refurbishes an entire hospital.

Imagine what $1 million could do? Or $50 million. I lack answers and a better way to help. Doing something, though, seems better than doing nothing.

I love sports. Practicing and committing to the work to excel at them helped shape my outlook on work ethic, compassion, and sacrifice for others. Sports can congregate masses like nothing else. Sometimes, then, we need to take the platform that sports afford and use it for something much bigger than the games themselves.

I will watch the NFL on opening weekend. I have also made a small donation. It isn’t much. But it’s something.

Whether this organization or another, I hope if you’re watching the NFL this weekend that you follow suit. And if you do, please share with me over email at kelly@kellylytle.com or twitter @kelly_lytle.