The following post was written by Rob Daniels, Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church in Bolingbrook, Illinois and one of the thought leaders behind the creation of the Race and Restoration Summit.
While I have always appreciated the opportunity to be part of the NACC over my years in ministry, the Race & Reconciliation Summit for me has become a place and an opportunity to connect and belong in a whole new way.
I grew up as a kid who wanted to fit in, a place where I could contribute and make a difference. And true to form I wanted to do what I thought the girls would notice… be an athlete. Mr. Wroughton was a teacher and coach at the Jr. High School I attended and every Thursday morning he would get up early, take his beat up old station wagon and make his garbage collection rounds in the town I grew up in.
He would pick up all kinds of what seemed like garbage to me. He’d take it home and if it could be repaired he’d repair it, clean it up and sell it again. All sorts of things that to most eyes seemed to have little to no value, Mr. Wroughton did what he did and made that stuff into treasure! It was pretty amazing.
Mr. Wroughton did the same thing with students… especially boys. Most people would have looked at me, a pre-teen, fatherless black kid and thought… “no way that kid is going to make it…” The truth is I probably would have believed them had it not been for the timely encouragement and intervention of Mr. Wroughton in my life.
As I said, I had convinced myself that the only way to be truly popular was to be an athlete. So when the word came out that there would be tryouts for the 7th grade basketball team, I leapt at the opportunity! I was completely and totally invested in making the basketball team. Everyday at the end of tryouts after “showers” (remember, we were Jr. High boys) we would find out who was invited back the next day by looking at “the list” on the coaches’ office window. I had somehow managed to make it through all three days of tryouts until Friday.
The list posted on that day was for those invited back for Monday to be part of the permanent team. And as you might have already guessed, my name was not on the final team roster list.
I was crushed. I can still feel now what I felt that afternoon. That walk home that day was one of the longest in my life, I cried all the way home. It just so happened that Mr. Wroughton who was also the basketball coach drove by me as I walked home that day and could see me crying.
However, on Monday, Mr. Wroughton asked me to stick around for the first practice of the basketball team, I didn’t know why but I said sure.
At the end of the practice, he gathered everyone around himself for a moment. He asked if anyone had noticed that I was in practice even though I had not made the final cut list on Friday. Sideways glances ensued, nods as well. Mr. Wroughton went on to explain that I was asked to stick around because, as he continued, after our last day of tryouts on Friday he had been driving home and drove past me. He then told this group of pre-teen, pubescent, Jr. High boys that he’d seen me crying as I walked home from the tryouts that day. The response was predictable, the snickering and giggling seemed to last forever. Mr. Wroughton then followed that up with this statement… “I asked Rob to come to practice today and want him to be on this team because any guy who wants so badly to be a part of this team that he would cry because he wasn’t, I figure we can’t be without”
That singular statement changed something in me, I am not sure exactly what, but I began for the first time in my life to believe that I really did have something to contribute.
I can honestly say, that I have been part of the Christian Church and Churches of Christ for all of my adult life with Jesus and the Race & Restoration Summit reminds me that I do have something of value to contribute, I can hardly wait for the opportunity in Kansas City this summer to do just that.
About Rob Daniels
Rob Daniels serves as Executive Pastor of Westbrook Christian Church a growing, vibrant multi-ethnic church in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Having grown up in an ethnically diverse community and having a multi-ethnic family has shaped a unique perspective on issues related to race and ethnicity. In addition, having served on the staff of churches in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Naperville and Carol Stream, Illinois and Indianapolis has provided a wealth of practical insight on leadership issues in the local church.