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Two Lessons from Kobe’s Death

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.

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