Like many today, it has taken part of today to process what happened earlier in the tragic helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his young daughter and others to be named. I am still stunned. As someone who still identifies strongly with sports and has a sports background, I am saddened. As a fellow human being reading of a man and a daughter traveling with friends/others to a youth basketball game when this occurred, I am crushed. Take the fact that Kobe Bryant was tragically killed out of the equation. This could happen to anyone and did happen to those whose names have yet to be released. You still have multiple individuals who were killed in an act of tragedy today. Bryant was just like any of them. A father. A spouse. A friend. It does not matter that he was a celebrity. He was just like your local police officer, fireman, neighbor who works at the local store, friend. He was a human among humans who were the wrong place at the wrong time.
Over the course of the past few hours, I have read much about Bryant and learned much about him. I knew of the professional athlete who failed and succeeded. I knew of the athlete who inspired so many through a sheer will to succeed. I knew of the athlete who represented the NBA brand and showed that all basketball is worth watching – NBA and WNBA. What I have learned more about in the past few hours is Kobe Bryant – the person. He was a parent. He was a spouse. He was a friend. People today lost all of these things when he, and others, perished.
Out of this observation, I want all of us to do one thing: Appreciate those in your life. Tell your family that you love them. Tell your friends how much they mean to you and let them know if they inspire you. Show people that they matter to you. As today has shown, whether you are a celebrity or the neighbor who works at the local store, it can all be gone in an instant. Not all of us are destined for fame or greatness, but we are all unique and special – even if it is only to a few people in our lives. To them, we are the world. Hold those people close and tight for tomorrow is not promised. Honor them and mourn them as we do for every service member who does not make it home, every public servant who gives their life in the line of duty and every person who enters through the Gates after their time on Earth is done – famous and common.
Many of us have experienced death enough times to know that the loss of a loved one is a wound that never quite heals. The tears are never quite done being shed. The hole in the heart never quite closes as it was before. We are only here on this Earth for a short time. Whether we are famous or not, our lives matter. Our souls matter and our the spirit that provides that spark within us that makes us definable. Too often, we only look back upon that spark of a human and realize how amazing they are when their time of departure has occurred or is at hand. Why don’t we do this with those around us while we all have time to appreciate it? That friend who works hard and is always there for you and asks nothing in return? Don’t wait until the sun sets many years from now and you see their name as an obituary and think “That person was really amazing.” Tell them. Tell them now. Don’t you think it’s worth it to see a smile come across their face as they realize that they are defined by more than a label – more than just a common person – and that to someone in their life, they mean something more valuable than gold? I do.
Whether you are a NBA legend or a hard-working person at a standard job, you have worth and value. You are someone – even if it is only in the eyes of a few. Tell those people, please. As the tragedies of deaths of military members, everyday people and legends attest, tomorrow is not promised. Not to any of us or any of those we sometimes take for granted. Use this tragedy as a lesson.