I knew a man who served others with passion and smiled with such commitment. The way that he shared with others and the way that he served others you would never guess his story. I certainly did not.
LaMonte Armstrong spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Can you imagine the pain? The anger? The resentment? I would be outraged.
Now, I am not so moved by Lamonte’s legacy and his tragic, recent passing because we were incredibly close. We shared a bond that I share with many people I fellowship with and I was always impressed by his joy and peace. He ALWAYS smiled!
The thing that moves me is that never once in the five years that I knew this man did I have even the slightest idea that he had been wrongfully convicted, nevertheless, that he was imprisoned for 17 long years. I discovered that story, as well as, the story of his passing in a news article this morning.
His past would have moved people. He could have talked constantly about his past and showed people where he was today and would have ignited hope in so many hearts. But he didn’t. (And he talked a lot!) That stuck with me.
He spoke of his present. He spoke of the way he viewed the world and shared his life with people who needed a hand. I don’t mean for this to sound like an obituary nor am I trying to reflect a more glorified relationship with this man than the one I had.
I am so moved by this because instead of pointing out the injustice or proclaiming his innocence, he just lived the phenomenon of freedom. Instead of highlighting the problem, he proclaimed the miracle. If he had a resentment or a deeply rooted anger, I never saw it.
This is astounding to me because we met in places where sharing pain causes revolutions and floods hearts with hope. People bare it all in these places. It is what we do. It is culture and tradition. There would be no better forum.
I spent the day with my children. I was incredibly present. I spent 6 hours in a fun park with about a million other families. Prompt the anxiety! I played with the kids, I took pictures of every moment I could, and I marveled at my husband’s interactions with them.
I didn’t dwell on my exhaustion. I didn’t burst from social anxiety. I didn’t even mind all of the scalding, hot, North Carolina sunshine. I was just there. I realized that I could just live in the gratitude for the miracle that is the present.
I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who have every reason to feel bitter about the hands they were dealt, but instead have decided to change their cards and play the game differently. LaMonte was not alone in that category of remarkable human beings in my life. He was simply the one who put it all in perspective for me today. I am immersed in a sea of sensational individuals.
I listened to a John Maxwell podcast a couple of days ago and he talked about the difference between growth and growing old. He said that growing old was automatic and anything automatic happened in the same motion as going downhill. Gravity did all the work. It is effortless and inevitable. Maxwell described growth as being worthwhile and added that anything worthwhile was going to be uphill. It would take true labor. I think LaMonte lived that way.
That is the level of daily intention I aim to reside in. I want to live uphill. My kids are only little for so long. My husband and I only get, but so much alone time. How can I let that slip away? I don’t want to be so busy dwelling in the past, obsessing over the future, or keeping score that I miss out on the really exceptional day I am actually living in.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.