Thomas Jefferson is not your normal everyday high school. To give you some perspective, the school is roughly 95% Latino and 5% Black. Roughly 60% of the students do not have legal documentation. It is the highest LEP (Limited English Proficiency) school in Texas. It is not uncommon for me to drop off a kid who lives in a 1-bedroom apartment with 6 or 7 other people. I feel like I learn something new and heartbreaking every other week so that now, almost nothing surprises me anymore.
Back when I was applying for the job, people would ask, "Why TJ? You’re white.” After thanking them for their very astute observation, my response was always quite simple - I believe kids are drawn to adults who love them. At the end of the day, not much else matters - race, background, age, you name it. So 2 years ago when Richard Davis showed up as a successful, 64-year-old, white man, I wasn’t worried that he was just about as opposite from the kids as someone could be. I was hopeful and expectant.
Over the past 2 years, Richard has done one thing and he has done it well - he has been faithful. He simply shows up. He shows up to club, he shows up to campaigners, he shows up to games. He is present and the kids love it. Who knew that in a world which values drugs, sex, fame, money and youth, that kids would be drawn to this man from the other side of the tracks? It’s all because kids are dying for love and affection and it turns out that the love of Christ as shown through Richard is not only what they need, it’s what they truly desire.
A few weeks ago, Richard’s father passed away and I had the honor to hear Richard speak at the memorial service. The coolest part of all this was to hear what God has been doing in Richard’s life. His message was simple: He has been able to cope with the loss of his earthly father because the emptiness in his life had already been filled by the only one who is able to fill us up - Jesus. And while that has been his message to the kids, it has also been God’s loving and gentle reminder to Richard in the midst of serving others.