(The cross belongs to one of my former players, the awesome Autumn Oliver!)
Each year, I receive several hundred little wooden crosses in the mail from Jarrod Brown with Mission Lazarus, a Christian agency which focuses on spreading love and the Gospel in Honduras. These small bits of thread and wood are invaluable in our WCS relief efforts for orphans in Honduras and in Haiti. Sometimes, the crosses end up being worn by unexpected people! This story comes from May of 2007.
I was sitting in our school lobby this morning reminding kids about bringing their Honduras change bottles when Russell Carr pulled up a chair and told me he had a great story. If you don't know much about basketball, you might not realize that Houston is a hotbed of the sport. It seems there is a young man about to enter the NBA draft, a well-known collegian from a successful program. As many in his position do, he has moved to Houston, hired a personal trainer, and is solely concentrating on his future life on the professional level. Recently, this college standout has been using the facilities at Westbury Christian to enhance his chances of success in the pros. As he left our campus yesterday, Russell, one of our coaches, asked about the cross around his neck. The player, thinking he was referring to his crossover dribble, replied that it came from the Denver Nuggets' Allen Iverson. Russell explained he meant the little wooden cross he was wearing. The future pro told him it was the funniest thing but that several days before, someone had placed it in his bag while he was working out and he had worn it ever since. Russell explained that the crosses come from my summer mission trips to Honduras and that many of our students sport them as jewelry. Russell further explained that our kids collect pennies-nickels-dimes-quarters to build orphanages in Honduras and asked if he would be interested in helping. Our guest enthusiastically endorsed the idea. Immediately, Russell brought him one of our bank bottles and our new ally in the war on poverty promised it will be full of change when he returns. We teach our kids that every penny counts. We don't care whose bottle they are collected in.
After telling the story in class, I found out the cross belonged Anthony, one of our middle school basketball players, who tossed his necklace in the wrong bag by mistake. I told him even though he lost his cross, it was my belief that it was no accident. If it had landed in Anthony's bag, we would have had one less collector of loose change, one less wearing a cross made by young men in Choluteca, Honduras, and one less person to tell the story of kids who need a home. Does that sound accidental to you? I find it fascinating that this athlete who stands to make millions is wearing a wooden cross on a string that cost about a dime to make and fifty cents for us to purchase. Seems backwards, doesn't it? Jesus made statements stressing the last will be first and the road to greatness must travel through the district of servanthood. A little thing in the kingdom of heaven is a big thing. Would that boy who made the cross in a shop in Honduras have made it differently knowing it would adorn the neck of an NBA player? I hope not. Its glory comes from its simplicity, a sliver of wood on a piece of thread. In 2000, New York Knick Stephon Marbury had a $150,000 necklace jerked from his neck as he sat in his car after leaving a night club. I would guess our new friend has no worries of theft or need to insure his Westbury Christian necklace. The world would assess Marbury's stolen jewelry as infinitely more valuable than what the rookie is wearing . But then, the world's values have always been skewed toward the monetarily expensive. The going rate for the cross was the life of the Son of God. You can't put a price tag on salvation.
PS: I did give Anthony a replacement cross!
Applicable quote of the day:
"To shun one's cross is to make it heavier."
Henri Frederic Amiel
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org