This is a tale of two fathers. Both are black, from the city, proud fathers, and go the extra mile for special people in their lives. Both work hard for every penny they have, but that is where the similarities end.
The first father, Ricky, lives in Pittsburgh, PA and works three jobs just to make ends meet. He juggles shifts at McDonald's, Popeye's and a Circle K, working seven days a week. We really don't know much about Ricky, other than what we have learned over the last few days from mainstream media. But this blog is not about what Ricky does at work; rather, how he translates that into success outside his workplace. One thing is for certain, Ricky's daughter is loved.
The second father is no slouch either. With three championship rings and four Most Valuable Player awards, LeBron has become a household name. He twice won back-to-back MVP awards, once in Miami and once in Cleveland. Two of his championship rings came at the same time as his MVP awards – in Miami. But it really is "King James'" off court exploits that matter in this blog. Like Ricky there is no doubt James' sons are loved, as are those youths at risk near his hometown of Akron, OH.
As you may have guessed, Ricky is none other than Ricky Smith, the 36-year old father of Nevaeha Smith from Pittsburgh, PA. According to Fox News reporter Janine Puhak, when Navaeha set her heart on "the dress," dad Ricky determined to make it happen. He picked up extra shifts and even set up a special reveal to give Navaeha her dress in unforgettable fashion. Puhak quoted Navaeha as saying "I'm grateful that he found a way to get me the dress and I really appreciate how many jobs he worked." For Ricky's part, "I just don't want people to think just because you don't have the money you can't make your kids happy, because you can."
King James needs no further introduction, other than to say he is arguably one of the best professional basketball players in the history of the game. But his basketball is only foundational to this story. As a source of his success, basketball has given the King ample opportunity to be selfish, self-centered, and self-aggrandizing, and he lived up to that potential. Who can forget the "take my talents to South Beach" television fiasco, or his recent claims that, while he would never meet with President Trump, he has "sat across from Barack"?
I like to say greatness in America requires equal parts ego and humility. King James exemplifies my beliefs. Ok, contrary to the tone so far, this is not a "bash LeBron" story. Rather, my purpose is to highlight his recent announcement of the LeBron James foundation's I Promise School for at-risk students 1stthrough 8thgrade in Akron, Ohio. According to Benjamin Brown, Fox News reporter, LeBron announced the school is ready to accept 240 third- and fourth-graders, eventually getting to all grades 1-8 by 2022.
This is a story of the widow's mite, with a twist.
"And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.'" (Luke 21:1-4, NKJV)
Now some have argued this is NOT the story of the widow's mite because neither man gave to the church. Neither man gave to God. But I disagree. When Luke wrote his gospel, he had no frame of reference for McDonalds or the NBA. How could he write an inspired scripture that would not be relevant for nearly two millennia? That would have been a waste and would have served to diminish the value of God's word. However, having the luxury of hindsight, we can look back and see how inspired scripture from thousands of years ago still relates to today's events.
Still others have argued Ricky missed the opportunity to teach a life and spiritual lesson, that God will not always provide you what you want, but He will always provide what you need. Well, admittedly I had that thought. But I see a 14 year-old Nevaeha learning more about the love of the Heavenly Father from the love and sacrifice shown by her Earthly father (Luke 11:11-13) as so much more important than a tough life lesson. Besides, unlike Winter Formal or another school dance that comes around each of the four years she will be in high school, her eighth-grade commencement is a once-in-a-lifetime event. What father is going to choose to teach a hard lesson during that occasion? None that I know.
Finally, some have said that, as an NBA star and multimillionaire, opening a school is small potatoes in light of everything LeBron has accomplished or could accomplish with his many millions. James should put his money to good use for the poor and at risk of Akron, Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles – everywhere!
Readers, I will not begrudge any man his daily wage, whether he earns minimum wage at McDonald's, minimum salary in the National Football League, or charges a minimum of $50,000 per plate speaking fee. I would rather say "Thank you Jesus" for the good that man has done with whatever God has given him. Even if it is just a mite, it is a mite more than anyone else has given.
Find the good in all things, Readers. Everyone else is looking for the bad. (Phil 4:8)
– Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.