Rarely have I found a door to be locked but even rarer have I found one wide open. I remember sitting in court during my internship with a judge. The victim who was on the witness stand, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, was visibly shaken as the prosecutor questioned her.
The woman continually watched her abusive husband who was on trial (and actually thought he was so slick that he could defend himself), react to the answers she gave to the line of questioning. The prosecutor was having a difficult time communicating with the witness and I saw confusion riddle the faces of the jurors at each answer.
Seeing the distress of the woman, the prosecutor asked if she could approach the witness. She stepped forward and crouched to eye level next to the trembling woman. She began her questioning again, this time in a disarming and soft tone.
We were in the waiting room on the day I was getting my wisdom teeth taken out. I slid a cushioned coffee table closer to my mom so she could prop her leg up, due to her bad knee. I set the magazines that had been scattered across the table on the ground next to me.
She said, “Ben, you are one of the few people I know who will move someone else’s furniture.” I think that’s true. I really try to help people, even if the solution is unconventional. I initiate, problem solve, and act.
Someone once told me the only thing worse than a bad man is a good man who does nothing. I’m not afraid of problems; I run towards them so that I can assess and solve them. I break boundaries and tend to say or do what others will not. I find that being comfortable is not important. What lasts forever is the impact we have on others, not what it took from us to make that impact on their life.
I remember getting in to the University of Georgia. It had been my dream, well half of it. Playing football for Georgia was the true dream. In reality, the door was not open for me. I was a running back who was strong but a little too slow. I was a fullback who was quick but a little too small. I had heart though, the kind that would get the first down late in the fourth quarter when it was fourth down and we were out of options.
My high school coach once told me I was just a little too small to show to big football programs like UGA’s, and I didn’t blame him because statistically speaking he was right. That closed a door. I tried the handle though, on the off chance that it would be unlocked. It was.
I went to the UGA football website and found the email next to Mark Richt’s name.
I emailed him in the summer of 2011. In 2012, I barged my way through a door most people wouldn’t even try and open. I was one of 6 walk-ons that made it through workouts, mat drills, and spring practice to enter in the spring game.
The scary thing was that how much work you did was somewhat determined by the performance of those around you. If others messed up, you went back and did it again and again and again. If someone was puking on the side, you kept going until they staggered back to the line. I learned more about my limits (and the lack thereof) in those days than I ever have.
On G-Day (the Georgia spring game), in the fourth quarter, when the game was locked up, my name was called. My knees were shaking (like they say in the movies,) my mind was racing and I wasn’t even sure I knew my assignment. I remember asking Hudson Mason where I was supposed to go. He told me something I’ll never forget, he pointed at a fat lineman and said, “hit that guy.”
I loaded up in my stance, listened for the cadence, and launched forward at the snap. I made my block, driving the guy back, grunting with effort. Those 15 seconds, that single block, was the culmination of my football career.
That was it for me, but I was the one that opened that door and got to shut that door for good. One day much later, A few months later, I was running through campus and I noticed that the gate to the practice field was cracked open. I peeked around and entered in. If you have ever been around the practice field you know that it has walls and fences all around it so that you can barely see in. If someone loiters around for too long during practice they will end up being harassed by security. Everyone else in the world sees those doors as locked. I am not everyone else.
Next fall I am “taking my talents” to law school. (Beat that, Lebron). I love the law because I love people. I think law is all about language and I think language is the essence of humanity. I see the way certain words have shaped the world. “Freedom,” “love,” “honor,” “We the people,” “I have a dream,” “It is finished.” “Guilty,” “Not Guilty,” both have stories to tell. Stories I believe have a right to be told. I can’t think of a nobler or more fulfilling calling than to tell the stories of others.
The second president of The United States, John Adams, was a lawyer before he was a politician. He always regarded one moment as the culmination of his law profession. He was the sole lawyer who represented the British soldiers that shot at American citizens in the Boston Massacre.
Some people never forgave him for that. He never forgot how fulfilling it was to be the one man in their corner when a fledgling nation was baring down on them. I will make that kind of impact on this world.
I rarely find a door to be locked and even more rarely find them flung wide open. I know the law is challenging work and sometimes the workload itself can close doors for a lot of people. That’s what I do though, I bust down doors, I move furniture, I initiate and innovate. I finish the drill (GO DAWGS).
I don’t know what doors lay ahead but I know one thing. I’m checking all the doorknobs on the off chance they may be unlocked.