For their 30th anniversary, ESPN produced 30 sports documentaries. They called this project “30 for 30”. The quality was so high and the popular response so overwhelming, they didn’t stop with 30. The one they aired last week touched me deeply. It was the story of Richard Jewell. He is the security guard at the 1996 Olympics who was falsely accused of planting the bomb that killed one and injured 111 in Atlanta’s Centennial Park.
There was no reason for him to be a suspect. The guilty person (Eric Rudolph) has since been convicted and is serving a life sentence. But as the Olympics were still underway, there was tremendous pressure to “solve” the case so everyone could relax, feel safe, and get on with the games.
Richard Jewell’s life was ruined. He was never really exonerated. He should have been a hero. He was the first to spot the backpack that contained the bomb. He did everything right. He cleared the area before the bomb detonated, saving at least 100 lives. Even after it was clear he didn’t do it, he never got the thanks he was due. People assumed he was somehow still guilty. He died in 2007 at the age of 44 from diabetic complications.
In this Holy Week, I am thinking of another innocent man. Another horrendous miscarriage of justice. And I think of those words Jesus spoke from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I think of these words, often attributed to Mother Teresa:
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some will be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you’ve got anyway.
If you have 30 minutes, I think you will be touched by this documentary on Richard Jewell, as I was.
In Christ, John