It feels great to be back in Baltimore! I’ve been in town all week preparing for my 8th annual charity basketball game on Saturday. It’s always a busy time of the year, but I enjoy seeing a lot of familiar faces in the area that I now call home. I was visiting one of our sponsors, Hyatt Regency, to discuss their role with our charity. I had visited the hotel a lot when I was a Raven and always enjoyed the view of the Inner Harbor. It is beautiful! It is really a visual of Baltimore at its best. I asked if someone could take me to the 12th floor so I could get a view of everything. It was the first time I saw the harbor from that perspective.
I glanced at all of the tall towers and company names and realized they were very important to the financial DNA of Baltimore. Major successful businesses call this city home. I was proud to say that I have been inside a lot of the buildings as a guest. Places like this do not exist where I’m from in Westmoreland County, Va. It still doesn’t seem real to me that I’ve had the opportunity to view the inside of those buildings. It was that single thought that made me question if kids from the city felt the same way. It was only because of my affiliation with the Baltimore Ravens that I was able to visit. I had a connection that allowed me to get inside the doors, but many of the students don’t have that privilege.
How many of the students know what’s inside of those buildings? How many of the students will ever visit those businesses? How many of the students will have the opportunity to one day work in those buildings?
I immediately tried to figure out ways that I could help bridge the gap. I’m well aware that some of these large corporations donate a lot of money to many great causes in this city. The money will be a blessing for the people, but I would like to call the companies in Baltimore to more direct action. What can your company do with boots on the ground and a hands-on approach to better the community? People need to see you, to know that you are real. Representation matters!
I’m reminded of how I’ve been blessed to come across certain people in my life who showed me I can do more. I’ve had great mentors who showed me what a healthy family dynamic looked like. I’ve had mentors who showed me that I could one day be in their shoes. I’ve been exposed to situations that inspired me to be the best version of myself. I can’t help but imagine a situation where the leaders of these companies could be just that for a group of students in the city — mentors and leaders to inspire them. Relationships matter!
When I was with the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson would ask us the same question every week. Are you interested? Or are you committed? This will stick with me all throughout my life.
In my opinion, donating money to charities is simply being interested when you have the capability to do more. The most valuable thing that we have in this world is time. When you give your time, it means more than any dollar amount. You can figure out a way to make another dollar, but you can never figure out a way to create more time.
Being committed means that you are fully invested. You are intentional about your actions and ways in which you could elevate your community. You make it a piece of your corporate identity. You are all in!
Many companies and individuals in Baltimore display this kind of commitment, but the students of Baltimore need more. Imagine the difference it would make for a student who is interested in jewelry to be exposed to the leaders at Pandora, or for a student who is interested in STEM to be exposed to BGE or Exelon. What would it look like if a student who is interested in business knew what type of work is happening at the World Trade Center in Baltimore?
I know how powerful it is to truly invest in people and give them hope simply by giving them a look inside the doors. That’s why I love my charity basketball game.
I love looking in the stands and seeing thousands of kids smiling because they get to see some of the men and women that they strive to be like one day. They get to see that some of their favorite players are normal just like them. Some of them would never have the opportunity to make it to the game if it wasn’t for people donating tickets. They see and touch people so they know it’s real. Representation matters! I’m trying to make sure that I continue to do my part with boots on the ground and firmly committed. I am writing this to challenge all of us to do a little more so Baltimore can BMORE.
Thank you for the love, see you on Saturday!
Torrey Smith is a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. A University of Maryland graduate, he played four seasons for the Baltimore Ravens. Twitter: @TorreySmithWR.