By Representative Danny Garrett
Alabama House District 44
Upon hearing the recent news and speculation concerning our governor, I experienced a variety of emotions: Shock. Disbelief. Sadness. Anger. Empathy. Betrayal.
I learned long ago humans are not perfect; we all sin and fall short. I’ve also learned we should be slow to judge (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”); that “there but for the grace of God go I”; and forgiveness is the essence of the Christian faith.
My heart aches for the many people whose lives have been forever changed because of poor choices, deception and moral failures. As a believer, I pray for God’s mercy, healing and grace for everyone that have been affected.
Bu I really hurt for two young men who – though not related to or associated with the people involved in this tragic situation – have been directly impacted by these terrible circumstances. Two young men who must suddenly realize heroes are human and not perfect, and people who inspire us today can disillusion us tomorrow.
I can’t stop thinking about Jack, an eager and inquisitive 11-year-old. Last year, when I was running for state representative, at the end of a particularly stressful day of campaigning, I opened a letter that had been delivered in the mail. The address had obviously been written by a child. Inside the envelope was a hand-written letter from young Jack, telling me he was “rooting for me” and “praying for me”. He said that he knew I was an honest man and that if I prayed and “stayed that way”, that I would win. Enclosed in the letter were three one-dollar bills, which I was proud to report on my campaign contributions filing with the Secretary of State’s office. Jack’s $3 donation meant more to me than any other contribution I received during the campaign, and his encouragement came at absolutely the right time.
On election day, Jack assisted my campaign manager, going poll-to-poll and encouraging supporters. That evening, he stood beside the computer where the election returns were being tabulated, and he was with our group of friends and supporters as we celebrated our victory.
His dad told me that for Christmas, Jack wanted as one of his presents an audience with the governor. We arranged for Jack to receive a letter from the governor, along with an invitation to visit the state capitol in Montgomery. Jack and his dad attended the events on Inauguration Day, and that night went to the Inaugural Ball in their tuxedos. The highlight of the evening was Jack getting to meet Governor Robert Bentley and the photo of them together at the ball is proudly displayed in Jack’s room at home.
I also can’t stop thinking about Christian, a very impressive and confident 18-year-old high school senior who made the national news by stepping to the microphone and praying an impromptu prayer when a medical emergency in the stands interrupted the graduation ceremony. Christian’s obvious faith and the incredible poise he displayed during the crisis were convicting, inspiring and motivating.
I invited Christian to come to Montgomery and lead the opening prayer for a daily session of the House of Representatives. During his visit to Montgomery, I learned that Christian, who has been gifted with an infectious personality and outstanding relationship skills, aspired to be involved in government. He planned to attend college in Montgomery, and was hopeful that he might gain some exposure to state politics while living in the capitol city.
On that beautiful June day, Christian, his mother, dad, grandparents and aunt visited in the State House and met numerous political figures in state government. Everyone had heard his story and wanted to meet him. A state photographer followed Christian’s entourage around during the day while he met members of the Republican caucus, the Democratic Black Caucus, the Senate and the House.
But the highlight of his visit was his personal meeting with the governor, who spent time walking with him through the Capitol, encouraging him and posing for pictures. Christian could not believe that he was in such surroundings, and he was so grateful for and appreciative of the opportunity. He also prayed an amazing prayer to open that day’s session.
It hurts me to think that Jack and Christian may be disillusioned and disappointed by what they have recently heard and read. It makes me sad to think that their impressions and perceptions may be shattered. It pains me to think that one of the best experiences of their lives has been tarnished by recent news. I pray that their hopes and dreams have not been crushed.
I hope Jack and Christian will understand our state needs men and women of faith and principle in government. I hope they will understand that temptation is not something to take lightly, and that all of us must constantly be on guard to do right and make wise choices. I hope they will see and meet first-hand many men and women in government, who, though far from perfect, are able to stay grounded and live above reproach. I hope that Jack and Christian will not lose heart, but will persevere with determination to be men of conviction and faith, and that they will encounter many role models who don’t disappoint them.
I pray for my colleagues in the legislature. I am so thankful for the many Christian brothers and sisters – Democrats and Republicans — who serve alongside me. I am especially grateful for the small circle of dear legislators who regularly encourage me spiritually and help hold me accountable.
I am human and not perfect. But please, God, keep me true.
I don’t want to let Jack and Christian down.