Last week I was reading Pat Riley's book: "Winner Within." Pat is one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. He was coaching the New York Knicks against the Michael Jordan lead Chicago Bulls. Riley asked his players if they knew which one of them would be selling Nike Sneakers that summer. None of them had a Nike contract so they looked confused. He said that there were many photographers taking pictures of Michael Jordan. They were hoping to catch a shot of Michael flying through the air with his tongue hanging out as he slammed the ball through the hoop over the head of a hapless defender. They would make about 8 million copies of that picture as they sold Nike Sneakers to people all over the world. Riley asked his team: "Which one of you guys will be the guy in the poster watching Jordan fly over your head?' The vision of being the poster boy was stimulating enough to cause the Knicks to rise to another level and beat the Bulls that day to even the series.
I have been the Director of Youth With A Purpose Inc for almost 12 years. I have watched young people succeed and I have watched young people die. It's the dying part that gets me riled. I feel like I was the devils poster boy. I stood by one 14 yr old with my hand on his chest as he took his final breath. I was praying for another heart beat beneath my hand. The bullet in his head caused the bleeding to flow nonstop. Afterward the grief seemed to flow nonstop. It was human beings doing evil things that caused this young boy to lose his life.
The devil didn't kill my young friend whose name was on my Father's day card that year. It was human beings who have lost the ability to value their own lives. If you don't value life, it's easy to take a life. If there was a satellite photo taken of me and the boy on his deathbed, it probably would look like I was the devils poster boy. A 14 yr old with a bullet through the middle of his head surrounded by shocked and grieving family members would look sad. There was I in the midst of them. Helpless, feeling hopeless and defeated.
The life support had been removed as the hope of life was taken from the family through the belief of doctors. The bullet passed through the middle of the brain and neurological function was nonexistent. They explain to you the process of removing life support and what will happen. Slowly the body will shut down as it cannot continue to beat and breathe without mechanical assistance. There are some moments of life that seem to last forever as you wait for death to carry a loved one into eternity.
There is a new anger welling up in my soul as I think about being the devils poster boy. It may be that I could not have prevented this boys untimely death. It may be that I could not have prevented the deaths of many other young people. It may be that I could not have prevented the incarceration of untold numbers of young people who are now wasting away in the cages of penal institutions. I believe there is a more excellent way.
I told a young man last week that I was not here to make friends. "I don't care if you don't like me. I'm here to point you in the right direction and help you survive on the mountainsides of life." As I told him: "Jesus loves you and so do I." He replied: "I know Jesus loves me but you don't. If you really loved me you wouldn't yell at me." As he walked out the door, I smiled and said: "The more I yell at you means the more I love and care about you and I want to keep you alive and out of jail."
I don't care if anybody likes me as long as the devil hates me. I know Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you and so do I.