Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
- Philippians 2:3-4, NIV
This past week, we lost Hank Aaron -- one of the greatest baseball players of all time. As a kid, I grew up watching Aaron at the old Atlanta Stadium. My father actually took me to the first baseball game ever played in that stadium -- an exhibition game between the Braves and the Detroit Tigers the year before they came to Atlanta. Growing up, I only knew Aaron as the Braves' right fielder who hit a lot of home runs. But as he approached Babe Ruth's record, I began to realize how special he was.
It was in the years after he had broken the record that I became aware of the challenges he faced, simply because he was a black athlete breaking the record of someone who was white. Aaron even received death threats along the way! Later, he would tell his story to help others understand some of the problems with issues of race we still face today.
This past week, with all of the news coverage surrounding his death, I read one story about how the Atlanta Hawks' coach had invited Aaron to come speak to his basketball team a few years ago. Some of the players shared how inspiring it was to talk with Aaron. In the article, Hawks great Dominique Wilkins was also interviewed. He shared these words about the influence Aaron had on him when he was a young and up-and-coming star:
"One of the things I remember him saying is, 'You have to set an example for people to come after you.' How do you do that? You do it the right way," Wilkins said of Aaron's message to him. "You do it by having humility and doing it the right way, and the right thing sometimes is hard. . . . The give-back aspect that I learned has come from the Aaron family." . . . Wilkins said. "Everyone knows what he did as an athlete, but I want people to know as a person how loving and how sweet of a guy he was." (italics mine)
The words that jumped out at me were "humility" and "loving." This Sunday, I will be talking about we can use our freedom to choose to be both humble and loving.