Last night at Carver, Coach Jeremy Williams from Greenville High came to speak to the team. He is late in his battle with ALS and is on a ventilator and speaks through a computer using his eyes to control the phrases. He gave an amazing talk. Life’s dealt him a very bad set of cards – a son with a debilitating disease, his ALS and his wife now has breast cancer. However, Jeremy Williams never quits. He loves the Lord with all his heart, mind and soul and until he takes his last breath, he will share the Gospel. He isn’t bitter. He isn’t angry. He could have quit a long time ago. His life expectancy when first diagnosed was “4-5 years”. He’s now 7-8 years into this battle and “kicking Satan’s butt” as he said last night. A lot of these kids have plenty of “excuses” to become a statistic. Jeremy is living proof that you don’t have to give in. You can keep fighting. You can be a man of integrity.
Before the meal, I asked Coach Kegler if I could come speak to the team. In part to prepare them for what they were about to experience but to also share with them about integrity, about rising above the challenges of life.
I’d read an article on Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and shared it with the Carver team (removing all references to Clemson or his name). Dabo Swinney’s dad was a drunk. He left the family. They lost their home. His brothers were getting in bad trouble. Money was scarce. They moved three times and finally settled in his grandmother’s government-subsidized apartment – a space smaller than his current office – to finish his senior year in high school. He was humiliated but decided right then to develop a relentless spirit of self-determination. He wasn’t going to rely on excuses or wallow in pity and become a statistic. He was going to rise above. Integrity.
He walked onto Alabama’s team at 6 feet, 170 pounds and played on a national championship team. His mother was so broke that she moved into his college apartment and commuted back to Birmingham for her $8/hour job. He wasn’t ashamed and didn’t try to hide his Mother’s presence – instead he invited friends and teammates over when she’d cook chicken and dumplings or chili. This was his fate, his family and he wasn’t hiding it. Integrity.
He benched his best player for the first two games of the season for an off-season drug arrest and he had to miss the opener vs. Auburn. Most coaches wouldn’t have done that but he doesn’t suffer fools and isn’t sympathetic to a talented player who throws away his life and uses life’s obstacles as an excuse for a bad decision. Swinney was willing to take the heat for benching his best player to make a point to his entire team. Integrity.
He says life is all about the decisions we make. It isn’t the cards we are dealt – our parents, our home, family problems, alcoholism, what color we are, etc. A man of integrity rises above that and controls his attitude, his work-ethic, his drive and his commitment. An individual’s course is not necessarily determined by the failure of others, even our own parents. Too many kids (and men) buy the lie. We buy the lie the devil is trying to sell us.
He is calling his men UP to a higher standard, to be men of integrity. Satan HATES integrity. Nothing grinds his gears more than a man of integrity. This is our call – we are called to be men of integrity and to call other men around us UP into a higher standard. If I am stumbling, call me to account. If I am too proud, pull me aside. If I am looking where I should not look, challenge me. That’s a higher standard. Call me UP to integrity and I’ll do the same for you. That is LiveUP!
I close with 3 pictures from last night – the one with the kids laying hands on Coach Williams is the sweetest…