Tuesday, November 18, 2014
My whole life I wanted to go to Carolina. As I grew older and actually learned about the educational aspects of the university and not just the basketball team, I wanted to go more. Linda Graves was one of our teachers in middle school. But she was more than a teacher to us, she was more like another mother. We all respected her and had known her long enough to be able to joke around with her at appropriate times. I hated math and in frustration I told her many times that I didn’t really need math, when I graduated I was just going to get a job. She would look at me and sternly say, “Robbie Brafford, you will go to college, and you will go to Carolina.” I’m quite certain that if I had not followed through with her expectations, she might have beaten me!
Going from a rural high school in Western Harnett to UNC-Chapel Hill was certainly different. I had an idea of what it would be like but I was not 100% certain as to what to expect. At the time, you were required to take two physical education classes. My very first class was a weightlifting class and I will never forget it. The class included students from all walks of life and different backgrounds. But there was one guy in this class that I was really just not sure of.
This stranger, in which I was skeptical, was a black guy who initially had a face of stone carved into anger. Several thoughts about the guy initially ran through my mind;
1. He is the “kingpin” of a big city gang and he will end up killing me just because I looked at him.
2. He has never smiled, not even on Christmas Day
3. He is a very rare individual….a black serial killer
4. He is extra angry because he thought he had signed up for “Different Ways to Kill People-101”
This is when the story turns into complete irony. I ended up speaking to him one day and asked if he wanted to lift weights. Now, he didn’t immediately warm up to me but he also did not kill me, so I thought that was a good sign. As the classes moved forward, we started working out almost every day. THEN, I started saying some of the crazy things I typically say, and he thought I was an idiot and much of what I said, he found hysterical. Before you knew it, we were rarely working out and laughing constantly.
The guy’s name was Stephon Goode, but I nicknamed him “Smoothdaddy” and that’s all I’ve ever called him. Every time I saw him on campus we would share stories and laughs. Actually, it was almost always me making fun of someone else and both of us laughing. We graduated before the world of email and cyberspace became so integrated into our lives, and therefore we lost touch with each other. However, in recent years, we have reacquainted through Facebook.
I am a firm believer that if you feel led to help someone, you should absolutely follow through with that intuition. Every year, we see golf tournaments, dinners, and fund raisers of all sorts for people that are going through a difficult time. Stephon is currently going through serious personal challenges. He has been diagnosed with “end stage renal disease” and will require a kidney transplant at some point in the near future. I know Stephon is a good guy. I also know that the world needs people like him. In 1999, we found out that my father had cancer. December 6th, 1999 will be a day I will never forget. My whole life I had my father for every challenging circumstance I had ever faced. When the surgeon walked out that day, all he could tell us was bad news in the absolute most amicable way possible. I know what it felt like that Thanksgiving and Christmas to be dealing with a very serious medical situation.
First and foremost, I’m asking you to pray for Stephon and his family. I would also appreciate it if you would share this blog with as many people as you can. In addition, I am asking you to consider if God is actually leading you to help Stephon. He needs $25,000 to help him through this surgery. His goal is already within reach as many people have already been led to make a donation. Many of you reading this know me good enough to realize that I would not have written a blog about Stephon if I didn’t believe in him. He is now the Reverend Stephon D. Goode of Union Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Henderson, NC. I am sure every time he thinks about almost everything I ever said to him in college, he prays for my forgiveness. But I also know that it would make Christmas for his family, friends and church even better if he had reached his goal. I’ve not done nearly enough in this life for others and I know that. But nothing feels better to me than helping someone in one way or another. Therefore, I am asking everyone that reads this to consider a difficult situation for a great guy. You can follow this link to his site, "Kidney Transplant Fund" and let’s start this holiday season by considering helping a guy through a challenging time who in return, will give back to the world for a lifetime.