I did. And I will.

I remember the first time I walked in. She was wearing red lipstick, khaki shorts and a mickey mouse t-shirt. “Hop in,” she said. And I did.

Somewhat lost and yet somehow at home, I spent 3 hours that first day playing alongside God’s greatest gifts. We laughed, I guessed, we played and made new friends. “How can I help?” I said at the end of the club…. “Lead music next month” she said. And I did.

A year of volunteering eased the frequent Atlanta doctors appointments, struggling nerves and nights of pain. The year turned to warm summer camp months and she asked for me to join the team. And I did.

That summer I fell in love with a world in celebration of people’s abilities. No longer asking the question “how will they navigate the world?” Instead the conviction became that the world needs them to navigate. Camp had a strict attendance commitment. In between bowling, swimming and the smiles she allowed me to slip away for my appointments and return. She understood. We bonded through it. She was slipping away for them too. She told me it would be okay. And for me, it was.

Mid-summer she handed me a paper. Said, “do not read it until you get home”. I wish I could say I did. But I did not. I read it in the car. “You’re a great leader” it read, “A natural.” An opportunity in black and white to lead for the rest of the weeks. She believed in me. She gave me a chance. And I did.

At summer’s end, amidst tears from the broken hearts leaving their favorite place, camp, she sat us down and told us that she was sick. And she was.

October 9th, 2004. Only a few months later, she gave her last breath, her heavy legacy lingering. And then the months that followed. We stepped up. Many more than others. But it was a team. We needed it to carry on, for her, for them, for us. And it did.

The letter I wrote to her 5 days before she left this world

The letter I wrote to her 5 days before she left this world

And then it was the call that December day when I was 19, “will you take the reins” to lead an organization, her memoir. Not knowing how to and also not know how not to. And so I did.

The years have passed as if they were months. Hardly believing it has been 14 years. I still see her in the decisions I make and hear her voice in the ups and downs. Everyday working to carefully carry her treasure. October 9th is a reminder every year that one day it will be me, with her and then there will be another to carry it on. I hope that she is proud. I hope to leave this place as beautiful as it is now. I hope to inspire and invest in others as she did in me. I hope to see it one day much better than I left it. And I will.

  The painted sky last night over the building she built next to the building we built. A perfect pair in fulfilling the mission.

 The painted sky last night over the building she built next to the building we built. A perfect pair in fulfilling the mission.

Fromm The Overflow of the Heart

“(Fromm) the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

There were two great college football teams at odds on Monday night in the Rose Bowl, but there was one glaring difference.

Jake Fromm & ESP participant Lauren Peterson

Jake Fromm & ESP participant Lauren Peterson

ESP’r Landon McDaniel & William Poole

ESP’r Landon McDaniel & William Poole

As the teams remained neck and neck, we watched from our TV in Athens. My nine-year-old son was 110 percent engaged in the game. He is at that innocent age of wonder with football and fascination with everything about the sport. He soaks up every bit of information and watches intently at every play. As the game progressed, you couldn’t help but notice the other teams’ responses to plays -- neck slashes, dirty looks and foul language -- I looked at my son and reminded him, “pride always falls. We may not win, but somehow- pride will make him fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18)

The game was beautiful. I don’t think it could have been scripted, nor played more perfectly. And as we screamed and ran circles around the house after the Georgia victory, we were stopped by Freshman Quarterback Jake Fromm’s first words, “We had to believe. God is good and he stayed with us. Roquan, everybody kept giving their all…. I mean it’s an incredible thing to share with my teammates.”

ESP Participant Kaleb Nunley with Lorenzo Carter & David Bellamy 

ESP Participant Kaleb Nunley with Lorenzo Carter & David Bellamy 

Pride is not something you can hide and humility is not something you can fake… “from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34). The quarterback of a team is the leader, not only leading the plays but setting the tone and providing motivation in the midst of adversity. And humility is the key to great leadership --- on the field, in the office and in the home.

We have witnessed the genuineness of the Georgia players first1hand as they interact with our individuals at ESP. This season, there have been so many sweet conversations, soft hugs and warm smiles. Jake Fromm and Coach Kirby Smart were some of the last to leave the field after spending time with 150 individuals with disabilities during ESP’s Bulldogs & Buddies event with the team. This quality leadership has come from the top, has been emulated by the team, trickled down and spread. I only hope that with such a great win that humility will continue, both on the team and within the fans into this next week and the biggest game of the season, the National Championship.

Kirby Smart and ESP participant Nick Smith

Kirby Smart and ESP participant Nick Smith

My little 5 year old Finley, Nicole Andrews & UGA’s Roquan Smith

My little 5 year old Finley, Nicole Andrews & UGA’s Roquan Smith

The next morning my son and I sat and recounted the amazingness that happened in double time- it all felt like a dream. He looked up at me, leaned his body close and said, “Mom, it happened. Pride lost and the Humble won.”

Georgia Bulldogs, keep setting an example in a sport where so many are watching by crediting God, supporting one another and remaining humble… keep making “the Main thing the Main thing.

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The O-so-inquisitive Owen & Dominick Sanders