When I reflect on my life soon after my birthday each year, I always come away feeling blessed beyond imagination. I have been to great destinations like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and I have even been to war-torn countries all because of the relationships that I built in my former life as a financial advisor. I won’t name names here just because this story will lose the point that I want to bring home but most of you will be able to figure out who the players are in this story.
It happened about five years ago as I was looking forward to taking a trip to Paris to witness a basketball game featuring NBA stars vs. France’s National team. The game was being played to benefit my friend’s grand opening of his hospital in his village in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo). The guaranteed donation from this event was $6,000,000.00 for the hospital but I was certain that the total would be closer to ten million dollars when the event was over. I was even working on a seven-figure contribution from my own company since they were headquartered in Paris, France. I had the chance to help a great cause and create greater name recognition for my own company so I was excited.
One day as I was attending an event for the benefit of the Martin Luther King,Jr. monument in DC, I ran into my friend and asked him where I should stay in Paris and a few more logistical questions when he hit me with a bombshell…the event had been canceled. I couldn’t believe what he was telling me because he was so calm and matter-of-fact about it but it was true. So of course I questioned him about what happened and he told me simply that France’s greatest basketball player was getting married the week before and would be on his honeymoon and would not be able to play in the game. Without him France pulled the plug on the event and the guaranteed donation as well.
This unbelievable conversation takes place while we are in the VIP line to take a photo with the Secretary of State and I’m getting animated while he remains calm and cool as a cucumber. A man standing behind us in line decides to throw in his two cents and, to my surprise, it is a former heavyweight boxing champion of the world. He jumps in with both feet and can’t believe what he’s hearing. All that money that wouldn’t go to my friends hospital was just unacceptable to him.
As we gathered more details we found out that the honeymoon was going to be in nearby Italy. We wondered why this basketball star couldn’t just fly up for the event, dribble a basketball for 5 minutes and then return to his honeymoon. Turned out he was willing to do it but his fiancée was not. He begged her but she wouldn’t budge and so without her flexibility or willingness to compromise the charity basketball game was doomed.
By this time, we had all taken our photos with Mr. Secretary and were off in a corner trying to think of something and who joins in the conversation? The Secretary of State for the US joins in on the barrage of whys and why nots. I am sitting there just soaking all this in. I’m friends with a very popular NBA star and we are joined by a former heavyweight champion and the Secretary of State working on this problem like it’s a world peace summit. I was one of them. Just a man with an opinion on how to reach an accord with this charity event. It was awesome.
I was of the opinion that the fiancée, who is a famous actress on a highly rated TV show, was making a huge mistake right on the heels of her marriage. I told the guys that even though the player was going along with her wishes, he would always resent her for forcing his hand at backing out of a commitment that effected so many people. My friend took all of our advice and the ultimate reality of his situation in stride and just said he would get the money from some other sources. Right then and there I told him “now that Paris is off I guess I will see you in the Congo!” He smiled and gave me a huge hug for my support and the decision was set in stone.
If you are wondering what happened to the marriage, you guessed correctly. They divorced after being married about three years. I am not surprised because I knew the seed of “relationship destruction” was planted way back in May of 2007 when a bride-to-be had an awesome opportunity to be a hero in France and the Congo but instead chose to be selfish and, what some might call, a bridezilla.
In July of 2007, I journeyed to the Democratic Republic of Congo to be present when my buddy’s ribbon cutting ceremony for his hospital took place. It was a crazy trip and I just cannot go into all the details in this post. Did I mention that a civil war was ceased for a few weeks so that this event could take place?
I caught several planes after departing on Saturday and finally arriving at my hotel on Monday afternoon. The ceremony took place the following morning and on Thursday I was back in the air headed for the good old US of A. Only Tuesday and Wednesday were spent with me not being on an airplane…amazing huh? Seven day trip and 5 of them I spent traveling to and from.
I enjoyed visiting my friend’s childhood village. He always wanted to be a doctor and that’s why he came to the US. Then a championship coach spotted him on campus and gave him a dream that could help another one come true; play basketball and make millions so that you can go home a hero and help those in your village in need of medical care. He did just that and he’s my hero too.