I was walking back to my classroom after school last week
and stopped to talk to the evening custodian. I asked him how things were going
and he said, “I’m just still struggling.” I worried that maybe I was missing
something that I should have known about, but he quickly came back with, “So
how did Kobe affect you?”
I told him that while I was never a huge fan, Kobe was my
age, and was such a great player in an era I spent my young adulthood watching
that it was very strange to think about him being gone. I definitely sensed he
wanted to talk about it – it almost seemed like he needed to talk about it. So we did.
As I drove home it really struck me that this guy was
grieving someone he never met, someone he had only seen on television. When I
told my wife about it, she said that she had overheard two ladies talking about
the Bryant helicopter tragedy and they were agitated that more attention wasn’t
being paid to the other people who died that day.
Two very different reactions, but having been given a week
to process things, I think there are some meaningful lessons for all of us in
both of them.
First, I would humbly suggest to the two ladies and everyone
else who feels similarly, that mourning Kobe Bryant is not a slight, insult, or
an affront to the memory of the other victims of the crash. Simply put, Bryant’s
face was everywhere, his persona transcended his profession, and even those who
were not fans of the NBA had Kobe at least peripherally a part of their lives.
From a logical standpoint, it makes complete sense and is
totally appropriate that the unexpected, shocking death of such an individual
would leave people shaken, sad, and suffering some form of grief. The same kind
of grief should not be expected for other individuals who were not part of our
lives – they will be mourned by those who know them. That isn’t shameful or a
reason to feel bad.
But the second, and more important thing that this tragedy
should bring home to each of us is the fact that our lives have far-reaching
implications. Granted, not many reading these words will have the global appeal
or name-recognition that the Lakers’ soon-to-be Hall of Famer did. Still, the
impact of our lives goes far beyond our immediate family.
Living then is more than a gift. It’s a responsibility. A
privilege given by the Creator for a purpose. Moments like this high-profile
helicopter crash offer every one of us the opportunity to recognize our own
mortality, how none of us is guaranteed another breath, and then to take
inventory of our lives. How well are we fulfilling our responsibility? Have we
even found our purpose?
Those can be troubling and unsettling questions so long as
we keep up a futile attempt to answer them by looking within ourselves. God has
gifted each of us with unique characteristics, talents, and personalities, and
He intends them for an eternal purpose. Your life, in other words, is not your
own. It belongs to Him; you belong to Him.The sooner we submit to that truth, the sooner
we can fully commit ourselves to a meaningful existence…and as this horrible
tragedy has reminded us all, the sooner the better.