“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
MALCOLM MITCHELL A FOOTBALL PLAYER OR A LEADER IN TEACHING CHILDREN?
Malcolm lined up in his position as wide receiver for the New England Patriots. It was third down with eleven yards to go and the Patriots chances of winning Super Bowl LI were dim. Trailing late in the fourth quarter they needed one more touchdown to complete an amazing comeback from being behind by twenty five points. But first, they had to get a first down.
Malcolm took off at the snap of the football and ran a perfect route, turning twelve yards from the line of scrimmage he saw the ball coming his way. He caught the ball and made the needed first down. The Patriots went on from here to score a touchdown to tie the game and ultimately win the game in overtime.
Malcolm was drafted by the Patriots in the previous spring and surprisingly was a key member of the team. He had seen many others drafted before him and knew he had to work hard just to make the team. After a productive training camp, he became a critical member of the receiving corp. His biggest game came in the Super Bowl, catching six passes, five in the critical fourth quarter.
The next season, in a pre-season game, Malcolm hurt his knee. He has not seen the football field since. He has had to endure ten surgeries over the last two years and looks like a long shot to return to professional football.
When Malcolm entered the University of Georgia, his reading level was equal to the third grade. If he was going to graduate, he was going to have to read better. So he started reading Children’s books. His thirst to read grew and he joined a women’s reading group. By the time he graduated he had not only become proficient, he self-published his own children’s book.
Malcolm grew up in a single parent household, whose mother had to work long hours to keep the family intact. Malcolm’s older brother, a person of strong character, steered Malcolm away from the dangerous life of the streets and helped him make the right life decisions.
After graduating, Malcolm started a reading program called Reading with Malcolm. A program designed to help children with below grade level reading skills and live in an environment where reading isn’t a priority. This year Malcolm gave away 5000 books to children in Georgia.
Malcolm’s children book, The Magician’s Hat, was published by Scholastic Publishing. He has gone on to speak at many schools about literacy and life. He has received many awards for both his book and his work with children.
Malcolm, the former Super Bowl champion and captain of the University of Georgia football team, likely will never play football again. Which is too bad, he has the qualities to be a great player. Instead, Malcolm has become an avid reader, writer and role model for children.
From his high school years where he knew just enough to get by and eventually enroll in college, his reading had blossomed. So has his leadership skills and commitment to help our youth.
Maybe this is the life Malcolm was destined for, not to gain fame on Sunday’s on a football field, but to inspire children to read. His football life maybe over, but his life isn’t.
Jesus loved children and he loved people that cared about children. He loved children because of their innocence and wonder. Children can imagine anything and try for any goal. Many times, all that stands in their way are adults. With good intent, we try to keep them safe. But sometimes we over over-zealous and hamper their creativity. Sometimes we don’t care and they drift untethered.
Children are imaginative and creative. Reading is an outlet for them to explore fascinating worlds and expand their creative imagination. Reading also, gives them a head start in life. People like Malcolm know this from living in the dark world of illiteracy. They know a future comes through education and inspired creativity.
Malcolm knows this very well and so did Jesus. It is nice to admire star football players, but it is more important to lift up people like Malcolm, who help our children.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
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