According to the United Nations, an average of 7,453 people die everyday in the United States. That means a person dies approximately every 12 seconds or 311 each hour.
This past Sunday, 9 people died in a helicopter crash that caused the world to pause. While each of the 9 deaths were equally tragic, 2 deaths stood out. NBA great Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, were killed when the chopper he owned crashed en route to her youth basketball game.
How are we to react?
How is right to react?
Let me begin with a clear caveat: I don’t know.
I don’t have all the answers, friends.
What I do know is that I’m not comfortable just glossing over this loss and moving on to the next thing on our to-do lists, so-to-speak. Kobe was deeply revered and endeared to many.
What I know, too, is that I’m not comfortable forgetting the 7 others who perished. The sudden, tragic, unexpected end of life is no less grievous regardless of celebrity status.
I’m also not comfortable focusing on the 17 year old, assault allegation. The charges were dropped, Kobe apologized, his wife forgave him, and none of us should be remembered by a singular allegation of sin amid a career of extraordinary positive influence. That is no disrespect to the young woman involved nor validation or invalidation of what occurred; this is simply not the time.
What I do know is we would each benefit if we utilized this sobering juncture to better our own lives. After all, tomorrow is not promised. There are zero guarantees.
Note the example of ex-NBA center and current ESPN analyst, Kendrick Perkins. Like Kobe, Perkins entered the NBA straight from high school as a first round draft pick. His playing career spanned 15 seasons amid 4 different NBA teams.
Perkins, no less, has recently been engaged in a (in my opinion, too public) feud with NBA star and ex-teammate, Kevin Durant. Earlier this month, Perkins tweeted that Durant’s 2015 move from the Oklahoma Thunder to the Golden State Warriors was “the weakest move in NBA History!!!”
(… a 5 year old move… on Twitter… what exactly is weak?)
The disrespectful banter continued via radio and Twitter.
Upon hearing the news of Kobe’s death, however, Perkins was prompted to instead tweet this to KD: “Just wanted to tell you I Love you my brother and whatever I did to hurt you I’m sorry bro and hope you forgive me!!! I love you bro real Talk!”
3 hours later, Perkins also typed this: “My new motto with everything is, What Would Kobe do? He’d want us to focus more on the loss of his daughter. He’d want us to get past differences with our brothers and move on…”
Perkins allowed the sobering loss of life to move him to something more. He allowed the death of someone he cared about to spur him on to what is better.
And so I ask again, how are we to react?
Perhaps it would be wiser to ask these questions…
Who do you need to forgive?
Who do you need to seek forgiveness from?
What grudge do you need to surrender?
Where can you be kinder?
Where can you offer mercy opposed to judgment?
And where can each of us be moved to something more?
I don’t have all the answers, friends. I just know that if the death of any of the 9 or the 7,453 sobered us enough to spur on something better, good would come from the heartache, beauty revealed in the ashes, and wisdom would be more evident in you and me.