“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” – Joseph Campbell
Before getting to the death of Botham Jean, the trial of Amber Guyger and the verdict rendered, I want you to know, simply for the purpose of context, of my affection for where Botham went to college, Harding University. Harding is a Church of Christ university located in Searcy, Arkansas. It is also where my dad spent two years of college and developed family friendships that remain even today. Among my fondest memories of Harding are the Bison football games I attended with my dad. He was a volunteer assistant coach, which meant I got to hang out in the locker room before and after games. At 10 and 11 years old, I remember vividly the feeling of being with what seemed to me at the time to be giants wearing black and gold uniforms. Those were special days for sure – days I’ll cherish forever. Harding is an extraordinary school that has produced some of the most extraordinary people I know, some of whom live right here in Waxahachie, and is a university for which I have deep admiration.
Botham Jean, from those I’ve spoken with at Harding, was by all indications a remarkable young man. A frequent song leader in chapel, an active member of the College Street Church of Christ in Searcy, a bright student and a young man for whom a relationship with Jesus was profoundly important, Botham was full of life … and love. Listening to his family and friends, in and out of the courtroom, serves as validation of what the Harding community thinks of Botham and how genuinely special he was.
What happened the evening of Sept. 6, 2018, was not only a tragedy of the worst kind but unnecessary and unfair, as well. Botham was the essence of innocence yet, because of a whole host of lousy circumstances, his life was taken by someone who made a mistake most of us have a hard time comprehending. It was a deadly mistake we’ll likely never see happen again. Appropriately now, Amber Guyger begins her penance for that mistake. For what it’s worth, I don’t see murder in the equation but do see an egregious act of manslaughter. Intending to kill a perceived threat is far different than intending to kill someone because of personal conflict. That would be murder. Whatever any of us think though, Amber Guyger now begins serving time in a cold, dark prison where she will carry the heavy burdens of profound guilt and regret.
The most exceptional aspect of the trial for me, and there were many, is the life changing act of mercy, grace and love Botham’s brother, Brandt, offered Amber Guyger. If there is anything society needs today to save itself from further decadence, it is what we saw in an 18-year-old young man in the middle of a Dallas courtroom last Wednesday. Instead of listening to race baiters, hate peddlers and the like who are obsessed with fanning the flames of dissension, we can and must adopt the attitude of Brandt Jean. He not only lost his big brother he, like the way many little brothers see their big brother, also lost his mentor and idol. Yet, in what could have easily been an environment for manifesting justifiable hatred, Brandt Jean chose mercy and grace and love. If you ever wondered what it would be like to see Jesus in action, look no further than what we saw in that courtroom.
The parents of these two extraordinary young men are to be commended for raising children to know what it means to give to, respect and love other people. It’s obvious, albeit through the worst of circumstances, they taught Botham and Brandt to embrace others unconditionally and to contribute to a society in desperate need of the same. Botham taught those who knew him what it means to live life large, so to speak, and to embody the characteristics of the God who created him. As sad as his death is, Botham’s legacy will never die. As for Brandt, his example of Jesus, an example now seen by millions, not only has the chance to change the trajectory of Amber Guyger’s life, it will serve as the perfect example to everyone wanting to know what real mercy and grace looks like.
Above all, we can be certain that Botham now walks with Jesus, that Brandt lives like Jesus and that Ms. Guyger can use her time in prison to find Jesus.
Maybe that was God’s plan all along.
Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at 972-316-7712 or email@example.com.