I just finished reading a short article about a high school sophomore from St. Paul, Minn. Malik Stewart was competing in the finals of the state wrestling tournament and lost the match to Mitchell McKee.
I used to wrestle in high school, and it probably is one of the most demanding sports that a young man can participate in. The training and preparation are grueling. To reach the finals in any sport and lose can be heartbreaking.
What makes this story so unusually inspiring is what happened after the match. Stewart went over to the winner’s side of the mat and not only shook the hand of the newly crowned state champion, he also gave a heartfelt hug to his opponent’s dad, who is dying from cancer.
Stewart said this to the Associated Press about McKee: “He was pretty proud, and his dad was pretty proud. So I went over there and shook his hand, embraced him a little bit and told him to stay strong and everybody loves him.”
Stewart is all too familiar with the feelings of losing a loved one. He lost his own father to a heart attack when he was just 7 years old. “I knew the hard times he was going through,” Stewart was quoted in the article. “The crowd went wild, and I heard a couple people say after I did it — that was pretty classy — but I just did it straight from the heart.”
That he did — and more. In a time when there’s no place for losers and finishing second is like finishing last, Stewart finished first in the category of “doing the right thing.”
Sometimes, doing the right thing means going against the grain of your peers. Sometimes, you have to lead with your heart instead of your head. It means standing out in the crowd for something you believe is right and good.
Sometimes, we have to be reminded that God didn’t fill us with his spirit so we could be average. In fact, he took so-called average people and helped them do amazing things. From ordinary to the extraordinary, that is what God helps us be. There are plenty of times when I have fallen short of the goal, made mistakes and even chose to do the wrong thing.
Thankfully, we have a God that forgives and inspires us to do better.
Stewart had something else that God gave him a few years back: empathy. It’s easy to walk in a pair of shoes that fit. But this young man has walked in many people’s shoes, for he knows the feeling and heartbreak of losing a father and a friend at a young age.
So he was able to reach out and look beyond his present circumstance and offer a word of encouragement. Not bad for a high-school sophomore.
Do you ever question yourself regarding your own work or what you are doing in life? Do you ever wonder, “Am I where I am supposed to be?” I know I do. And if you ever feel like your path is worn and you would like a new pair of shoes, remember that even if the shoe fits, it might be that you weren’t meant to wear it.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Call him at 912-531-7867 or go to thesuitesatstationexchange.com.