Mike joined Bo on the L.S.U. football team a few years later, though they didn’t get along. Mike’s father, who died when he was 14, had the bigoted attitudes of the time and place. Mike was raised in that tough guy culture. Once, an L.S.U. fan threw a whiskey bottle at Mike and hit him in the back. Mike charged the stands to take revenge.
Both went on to lead successful lives. Bo played for the Cincinnati Bengals for eight years before returning to Shreveport to work as a financial adviser. Mike created one of the city’s most successful dental practices.
And things went on that way for a few decades. Until they didn’t.
Bo joined a group of 14 guys who had breakfast together every week. The friendships opened his heart. Then in 2009 he was driving with his preteen son with a .45 automatic rattling around on the dashboard. Bo heard an explosion and felt a pain in his leg worse than anything he’d experienced in the N.F.L.
His son called 911 and drove the car to a place where they could be met by an ambulance. The E.M.T. looked at Bo and said, “In all my years of doing this, I’ve never seen a guy as lucky as you.” The emergency room doctor and nurse said the same thing. If the bullet had gone one way it would have hit an artery and killed him. If it had gone the other it would have meant amputation. Bo was left in his hospital room to think about life.
Meanwhile, Mike was prospering in the normal way, serving his patients, going to church and playing golf. But internally, he was troubled. He heard about Arnold Toynbee’s theory of civilizational decline and worried about America. Personally, he felt unfulfilled. When he went to the Pearly Gates would St. Peter really care how low his handicap was?
“In the dark recesses of my mind I didn’t trust people enough to let them know what was going on.” Then he was handed a book called “The Master Plan of Evangelism” and by Page 5 his life was altered.
Shreveport saw a lot of ugliness during the civil rights era. But it is fortunate today to have Community Renewal, one of the nation’s the most impressive community-building groups. Community Renewal builds settlement houses for kids in crime-ridden communities. It sponsors over 1,500 Haven Houses in neighborhoods rich and poor where volunteers sponsor activities and build relationships. It’s one of the most successfully integrated organizations I’ve seen.
Mike pulled out of his dental…