Among the many blessings in my
life, the ones I treasure most are my friends. Kenneth
Colson, Bronc Fanning, Darrell Buzan, my wife, my horses,
and others have helped me in so many ways. In roping, golf,
singing, and acting, those friends have moved me down the
path. Sometimes they encourage and that’s pleasant;
sometimes they snap impatiently, and that’s not. But in
each case, those friends believe in me, and more
importantly, help me believe in myself. And one of those
special friends is Jim Stovall. He is quite something…
Jim Stovall has won an Emmy, written scads of books,
and made movies…all after losing his sight at a young age.
He and I have had so many conversations I can’t recall them
all, but there is one that haunts me…one I keep remembering.
I’ve long since forgotten where we were. A bar, a
hotel, a restaurant, his house or mine…I can’t recall. But
no matter - the topic is always the same when we talk.
Sooner or later, we get around to the question – my
obsession – what makes us rise? What really helps
us? During that one memorable discussion, he said this…
“You know, in this culture when we have a problem of
some sort, the world tells us we need “counseling.” We are
supposed to go to some mental health professional –
counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist - and tell them our
problem. Maybe that helps,” he said, shrugging his wide
shoulders. “But you know, there is something else that
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” he said, “sometimes in life, a person can
sit us down in a chair and talk to us for twenty minutes or
so…and we are never the same. We are never the same person
we were when we sat down in that chair.”
That’s the one I keep remembering. His words were
“sticky.” They were sticky because of all that truth
dripping from them.
Sometimes, someone can tell us something in just a few
minutes – just a few words - and we are never the same.
She was standing in line for registration at the
university. She was looking down at the floor. A
strikingly beautiful young woman staring at the floor. Her
shoulders began to shake, and then, if you listened
carefully, you could hear soft sobs. She was crying. A
faculty member was staring. He approached, touched her arm,
and said, “I can help you.”
“No,” she said. “You can’t help me.” And her tale
“I am eleven of eleven children,” she said, her voice
shaking. “My daddy is a sharecropper in Louisiana. No one
in my family ever finished high school. But I did. I was
the valedictorian.” She paused, wiping her face. “I have a
scholarship here at Texas A&M University-Commerce. When my
daddy put me on the bus to come here, he said, ‘All our
suffering – all the things we have been through – all of it
was for this moment.’ Then, he hugged me and kissed my
face, and said, ‘All our hopes are riding on you. Go make
us proud.’ ” And the young girl cried harder. The faculty
member stood saying nothing – just listening.
“Now I’m here,” she continued. “Now I’m here, and
there are ten thousand people here! I’m so frightened.
I’m so scared. I can’t do this. Now, I have to go home and
tell my daddy I can’t do this.” And the tears came hard.
“I have to go home and tell my daddy I can’t do this. I am
in the wrong place.”
And the teacher touched her hand, and said, “No…no,
you are not.”
Taking her by the arm, he said, “Come along now. Dry
your tears. We have so much to do. It’s time to begin.”
And the young woman was swept away.
And that young girl who was so afraid of those ten
thousand people became the leader of them all. She became
the student body president, graduated with honors, and now
teaches in Mesquite, Texas. And when any child says, “I
can’t,” she says, “Actually…you can.”
So what really helps us? Sometimes it’s a friend.
Sometimes it’s a horse or a dog. Sometimes it’s rain. And
sometimes…it’s just a few words.
“Words aptly spoken
are like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
-- Proverbs 25:11
-- Michael Johnson
Ed. Note -- Watch for
Jim Stovall’s new movie, The Ultimate Life, premiering
Sept. 6th, 2013.