Some of you, who have been faithful followers of my blog, know that I have a daughter my wife and I adopted from El Salvador. She had an extremely difficult time of it as a little girl. Prior to us adopting her, she and her family were victims of the civil war in El Salvador; which claimed the lives of over 50,000 victims. Our daughter witnessed her sister being killed; and she, herself, had been seriously wounded and couldn’t walk at time we came to get her.
When Gina was teenager, during one of her woe-is-me moments, I sat her down and told her the cold, hard facts of life. I told her that life, through no fault of her own, had presented her two clear two paths she could take. With one path, she could continue to dwell on her past and all the horrible things that had befallen her. She could always play the victim card, and hope that those around her would always give her an extra shot…would allow her a second chance…would expect less from her.
I told her there was a second path…but it was the harder path…the more courageous path. It would require her to put her past where it belonged…in her past. It would require her to not use what happened to her as a way of gaining sympathy, or as an excuse as to why she should deserve special consideration. I gave her this harsh lesson, people that you will eventually work with may find your childhood story fascinating at lunch…but when she punched back in to work; her fellow employees would only care about one thing…could she do the job!
We are a compassionate people, we Americans. We long to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We are more than willing to contribute to a charity, to hold a spaghetti dinner for a sick child, and to allow a huge portion of our taxes to be used to help the downtrodden.
And yet, I am thinking that we need to have a collective national conversation with an ever-growing segment of our population, like I did with my daughter. For you see, every time we give something to somebody; we are effectively telling that person that we don’t think they could do it on their own. We are telling them that they couldn’t be successful without our help. We do enough things for a long enough period of time, and eventually they come to believe that things they won’t do now are things they CAN’T DO.
A free and just society protects the weak and the infirm. This conversation is not about them. It is about the millions who, through our compassion, have decided to expect less of themselves…thereby cheating themselves from living life at their highest potential.
When I read the following story concerning Lebron James and his Lebron James Family Foundation; I couldn’t help but marvel at the wisdom of this man. I thought this man might be the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, but he might also be the best citizen this country has had in a very long time. I am privileged to live in Akron, Ohio-the home of Lebron James. He might have come up a few points short of bringing a championship to Northeastern Ohio, but what he does off the court is a far greater gift to his community than any basketball championship.
Even during the years when he “took his talents to South Beach” to play for the Miami Heat, Lebron still was active in his community of Akron. With his foundation, he has taken under his wing 1,100 grade school children. These children have to promise to strive for excellence in school, and at home. In return, they have tutoring available, they were each given a computer, and there are events throughout the year for those who have kept their promise to be a good student and a good citizen.
Lebron has recently announced, in conjunction with the University of Akron, to pay for these 1,100 to go to college for 4 years. Granted, perhaps not all 1,100 will qualify for the free college…because the offer comes with standards that everyone has to achieve. The local paper calculated that if all 1,100 qualified; Lebron would be on the hook for 43 million dollars.
Here is the best part of Lebron’s message to the youth of Akron. It is the foundation’s slogan…“Nothing is given. Everything is earned.” Let that sink in for a moment, “Nothing is given. Everything is earned.”
So many people in a position of power and influence in America tell the youth of our country why they can’t do something, and here is one man standing up and saying that hard work, an education, and a strong work ethic are the keys to success in America.
In his basketball play, like him or not, you have to respect that he gives the game his all. There are no excuses. In the playoffs, with the next two best players out with injuries, you never heard him use those players as an excuse on why the Cav’s couldn’t win. Thankfully, he is giving that same message to 1,100 Akron kids (and to a few old men like me watching from the sidelines).
Lebron, I know you want to bring a championship to your home town…but you are doing something far greater. You are making champions out of children in your community, and hopefully they will grow up to be all that God made them to be. Love your message,“Nothing is given. Everything is earned.”