Wave of hope on a cold Iowa day

Wave of hope on a cold Iowa day

Like almost everyone else I know, I’ve been feeling beaten down by the onslaught of bad news.

Hurricanes and wildfires. Mass shootings and mail bombs. Hateful political rhetoric, including from the highest office in the land. Anger everywhere.

It’s hard to get a break from the news in our business, but over the weekend, we had the chance to visit our son for family weekend at the University of Iowa.

My husband and I were both juggling work duties with our travels Friday, but on Saturday I went to the Iowa-Northwestern football game with my son and his friends.

It was my first visit to Kinnick Stadium — and a cold one. The temperature at kickoff was 27 degrees.

We bundled up (well, some of us did — teenage boys don’t need advice) and headed to our seats.

Luckily for body warmth, the place was packed, with almost 65,000 fans in black and gold (plus a tiny little group in purple).

We found ourselves seated next to a couple with a stack of posters. I assumed they had a son on the team or some other Iowa connection.

But a few minutes into the game, the woman turned and asked us if we would help them out by holding up a sign or two.

It turned out they know a little girl named Delaney who is being treated for cystic fibrosis at the university’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital, which overlooks Kinnick Stadium.

The hospital’s longtime connection to the football program made national headlines last year with the start of “the Wave.”

At every Iowa home game, fans, players and coaches inside the stadium wave to the patients watching the game from the 12th floor “press box” of the new hospital, where kids dress in Hawkeye gear, watch screens with the same HawkVision feed that plays on the stadium scoreboard, and enjoy snacks, games and pompoms.

For night games, fans turn on the lights of their cellphones to illuminate the wave, tiny dots of hope in the darkness.

The new tradition started as a fan’s suggestion on Facebook in June 2017 to cheer up the children in the hospital. Since its debut at Iowa’s 2017 home opener, the wave has spread across the country, with college and high school athletes saluting the young Iowa patients via the magic of television and the internet.

Being an unabashed sentimentalist, I had been looking forward to taking part.Blog Photo

On Saturday, Delaney’s friends had prepared signs saying “We (heart) Delaney.” My daughter and I were honored to hold the “D” and the “E.” We dutifully held them up while trying to wave and take photos at the same time.

Later, I asked my new friend if Delaney had seen the display. Cellphone service was spotty, so she couldn’t get a quick answer from the family.

But I’m hopeful that, just for a few seconds, we helped make a sick girl’s life a little bit brighter.

During the wave, I looked around the stadium, full of students and parents and alumni and farmers and veterans being honored for Military Appreciation Day. I’m sure they didn’t all agree on politics, or the trade war with China, or the recent election results, or who is to blame for our divisions.

But there they were, all waving in unison to those young faces in the windows. And I felt a little better.

Later that night, I watched “Saturday Night Live” with my kids and saw the “Weekend Update” segment with comedian Pete Davidson. He had been roundly condemned for a political segment the previous week in which he poked fun at the appearance of Texas Republican congressional candidate Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who wears an eye patch after losing his eye while serving in Afghanistan.

This week, Davidson gave a forthright apology — not the “I’m sorry if you were offended” kind — calling his words a “poor choice” and calling Crenshaw a war hero.

Crenshaw, who won his election Tuesday, then joined him and delivered some good-natured jabs at Davidson, who laughed and thanked him for coming.

“Thanks for making a Republican look good,” Crenshaw replied with a grin.

(The best moment was when Crenshaw’s cellphone rang with a song from pop star Ariana Grande, who just became Davidson’s ex-fiance. “You know her?” he asked Davidson.)

Then Crenshaw got serious. He said the exchange showed not only that “the left and the right can still agree on some things” but also that “Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other.”

Then, in honor of Veterans Day weekend, he urged Americans to tell a veteran “never forget,” to let them know “you are in it with them,” not separated by some barrier between civilians and the military. And he said the same phrase applies to “heroes like Peter’s father,” a firefighter who died on 9/11.

“And that is from both of us,” Davidson said, as the two men shook hands.

The bad news and toxic rhetoric may not stop, but Saturday was a welcome break. If “SNL” can take a step back, maybe others can, too.

My sense, my hope, is that people are weary of the turmoil, and they’re moving on to leaders with a different kind of vision.

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Julie Wurth writes a column about kids and family life and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Contact her at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or on Twitter (@jawurth).

Photo:

Our view of the "Wave' at the Iowa-Northwestern game in Iowa City on Saturday (Nov. 10, 2018). Julie Wurth

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