I don’t know much about Victor Cruz, except that he’s a wide receiver on the defending Super-Bowl champion New York Giants. I could probably find out more about him this morning if I chose to do a bit more Google-ing. I did see that he lent his high-profile name to the 2012 presidential candidate who I did not support. I don’t really care.
I know that Cruz has a touchdown celebration that involves a bit of salsa-dancing in the end zone that probably infuriates opponents. I know him the same way most football fans in America know him; a gifted athlete who is paid an extraordinary amount of money to catch footballs and then try to run away from big, crazy warriors who would love to knock him into Kookamanga so hard that if the collision involved any of us non-football mortals, the force of the impact would probably hospitalize us and perhaps change the course of our lives.
I didn’t know much about Victor Cruz other than that. And then, I learned that he spent much of yesterday up in Newtown, Connecticut; at the home of six-year old Jack Pinto.
Up until last Friday, little Jack Pinto idolized Victor Cruz. Wore his jersey as often as he could. And then, his life was one of the many taken from him by an evil madman.
I remember when my son and daughter were six years old. What a fantastic age! If only I had the time to tell you of all my freeze-frame memories of my six-year old kids.
So I can’t imagine the hurt, the emptiness, the heartbreak, the helpless desperation of parents and loved ones as a six-year old life is snuffed out in a cruel, unfeeling moment.
I remember, upon hearing the news last Friday, a wave of numbness and a shaking of my head as my face scrunched into a taut expression. But I wondered if something was wrong with me, because there were no tears. I must admit that five minutes later, my mind was onto other things.
I did see, as some of you might have this past Sunday, the messages Cruz had written on his football shoes proclaiming that Jack Pinto was Victor’s hero. And still, I was numb.
This morning on my way to work, I heard sportscasters talking about Victor Cruz’ pilgrimage to Jack Pinto’s home yesterday. I heard that he spent several hours with the family, and that he gave a bunch of merchandise away to Jack’s surviving friends. Victor Cruz was up in Newtown yesterday, making kids laugh, and doing what he could to help the parents and grownups that the shooter of Jack Pinto and those other kids left in his wake. Helping them to find the strength, humor and courage to carry on. I imagine that tears were shed yesterday, some of which may have belonged to Victor Cruz.
As I listened to the story this morning, I pulled the car over. Finally, my own tears flowed.
How many times have I been in a position to be a source of strength and comfort to those in need, and yet I’ve refused? I, who profess to understand and embrace the historical religious meaning of the Christmas season? For all that may have already occurred in his life and all that may still happen, for the better and for the worse, Victor Cruz has already had at least one shining moment, a moment that may never be eclipsed by the highest highs or the lowest lows that are still to come for him.
Victor Cruz reminded me of what it really means to be a man.
May I learn this lesson deeply, and may it change me.