It is a faith that has been tested many times in my own life. Too often, I have been called upon to be strong in the face of great personal tragedy. Ironically, these tragedies have always gone hand in hand with personal or professional triumphs. To have the best moments of my life so interwoven with the worst ones is a strange and painful symmetry.
I have prayed a great deal, and in those prayers, I have asked why these things have happened to me and my family. One answer came during my darkest hour. In 1981, my fourteen-month old daughter, Nina, lay in the hospital, fighting for her life. A missed diagnosis of spinal meningitis left her brain hopelessly damaged; my happy, dancing baby girl would never walk or talk again.
In those early days, just after she was devastated, I looked to every quarter for comfort and counsel. A priest, passing me in the hospital chapel one night, suggested that perhaps this terrible thing had happened so that I could go on to inspire others, to give them hope.
It spoke to something I already believed. From childhood, I had believed that I had a purpose on this earth: to give hope to those without hope, strength to those whose strength had failed. At the time, the price seemed far too steep. It was not until more than twenty years later, when my own life was in danger, that I truly appreciated what that priest had said, when a woman I had never met reached out to comfort me.
To rise and give hope. Whether by bringing pride to a small, historically black school through basketball excellence or simply by believing in a young woman even after she has stopped believing in herself, I have been able to achieve that purpose in my life. But I believe that the time has come to widen the circle.
Standing Tall continues…