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Thanksgiving Cardinal

Male Cardinal in Winter, Animal Portrait. Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When you happen to spot a cardinal—-it’s a great day—-and it’s a good idea to make a wish.

The cardinal is a sign of hope.

Such was the case for me one spring morning at the Foxborough, Massachusetts Stop and Shop grocery market on Route 140.

While standing in the check-out line, a venerable, wispy white-haired woman wearing a red shawl arrived in the line—-and suddenly a feeling of unexpected warmth came over me.

When I peered in her direction, she greeted me with an angelic smile.

Just as I was smiling back to her, I heard, “Hey, Mr. Mitchell!”

A former student of mine at Foxborough High School, Katie Thrasher Bryant, had rushed over to say hello. Katie was now one of the managers at the store and it was always good to see her. Talk about smiles—-Katie’s is of the million dollar variety. And what a character!

The woman beside me quickly picked up on our Foxborough High School connection and, after Katie had hustled away, the woman asked me, “Do you happen to know how I can get in touch with Robert Kraft?”

The woman must have known that Robert Kraft had been doing a lot for FHS—-he had spoken at a recent graduation, he had sent Rob Gronkowski over to the school one day for an impromptu assembly and he had annually hosted groups of students and teachers at Gillette Stadium in a ceremony he designed in order to honor “unsung students” at the school.

Mr. Kraft had also gone out of his way to befriend a brilliant FHS student named Sam Berns who was afflicted with progeria (“old man’s disease”)—-so much so that Mr. Kraft invited Sam to meet Tom Brady (one of Sam’s two idols—-Dave Matthews being the other) and to have Sam deliver a pep talk to the team—-and at the height on Sam Berns’ national popularity, Mr. Kraft flew Sam and his family in his private jet, first to New York where Sam was scheduled to appear on the Katie Couric Show and then to Washington D.C. where Sam gave his unforgettable Ted Talk.

Here is a 2:47 tribute that ABC gave to Sam Berns:

Thus, when the woman asked me if I knew how to get in touch with Robert Kraft, I was pretty sure that I could help her. After we purchased our groceries, we talked by the courtesy desk where Katie was always fast at work.

“Why do you want to get in touch with Mr. Kraft?” I asked.

“I am a three time cancer survivor,” she said. “And I knit special “healing” sweaters for cancer patients. So, I have just finished knitting a sweater for Tom Brady’s mother and I figured Mr. Kraft would be kind enough to give it to Tom.”

This was easy—-all she had to do was to go to Gillette Stadium to the main entrance for the front office and ask the attendants there to give her sweater and message card to Tom Brady.

After I finished giving her the directions, I wished her well and began to shuffle away, when she said, “I used to have a wonderful Patriots’ connection.”

“Who was it?” I asked.

“Well, one day I actually met him here at the Stop and Shop. He complimented me on my red bandana. I was going through chemo at that time and after a nice conversation, he gave me his phone number and said I should call him if I ever needed some help.”

“So one night I called him because I was unable to drive and I needed some food. Within an hour he was at my door with the food. He sat and talked with me while I ate and I could tell he was genuinely happy to help me out. He was so warm and friendly and had such a magnificent smile.”

“But now he’s gone—-the Patriots traded him to Arizona.”

“That’s Chandler Jones!” I exclaimed.

“Yes. But, before he left, he called me and said he would still keep in touch. I hope he will—because he’s the nicest young man I have ever met.”


I have no doubt that Chandler Jones was good to his word.

You know, it is now 4 years later, and in many ways Chandler Jones has emerged as the Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals’ defense.

Not only has he been a year-to-year star on the field, but his love for the game and his loyalty to his teammates have been nothing short of exemplary—-he never misses a practice—-be it a scheduled practice or voluntary—-he’s always smiling and urging on his teammates, much the way Larry does—-

Look at the way Chandler Jones bonded with Kyler Murray from day one—-here is what Chandler had to say about Kyler back in June (at the 1:58 mark on this video):

And now—-Chandler Jones is finally starting to get the national recognition he deserves for being the NFL’s leader in sacks the past 5 years. Here is today’s ESPN article (by Josh Weinfuss) nominating Jones as a legit candidate for Defensive Player of the Year:

But, beyond all of Jones’ impressive efforts on the field, Chandler is a magnetic day-in-and-day-out spirit in the locker room, on the practice field and in the community.

Chandler Jones wants to brighten people’s days.

Like the cardinal, Chandler Jones brings hope.

Let that be said of all of us!

Happy Thanksgiving, Chandler Jones.

With love, from Foxborough.