#Be Different

“Mom." He looked up at me. "I'm going to play basketball when I grow up." He was four. 

We stood in the kindergarten hallway. 

I can see the curls that moved when he talked. I can see the smile that covered his face and the mischievous twinkle that's still in his eyes. 

A parent that was standing nearby overheard the conversation I'd had with Will. She told me, when he was out of earshot, that I could not let him think that way. 

Guess what? 

That well-intended conversation lit a fire in me. 

In a hallway filled with the smell of dirt and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I decided right then that Chris and I would believe our kids.  And the dreams God put on their heart, even when they were little. 

Today, Will signs his National Letter of Intent to play basketball for the University of North Carolina. 

Today he is one of four young men who sign on to become Tar Heels. They join an estimated 48,000 student-athletes who sign now - typically basketball and football players - or athletes that sign during the Spring in the regular signing period. 

Today we pause amid a world that's gone mad to celebrate each amateur athlete whose endurance and tenacity have ushered them to the doorstep of their dream. 

Today, we applaud the class of '22. 

Covid and severe restrictions were their workarounds. 

But, with a heavy dose of perseverance, gallons of sweat, and hours upon hours of unseen work, they made it to the next level. 

We applaud their journey. 

Will and I visited UNC when he was a freshman in high school. The dream of playing at the next level felt hazy. 

But … God. 

Danny Servick, dear friend and founder of Pro One Basketball club, made way for Will to get to the Chris Paul Rising Stars camp (CP3).

Will and I hopped in the car after the 3rd day of school and booked it to Greensboro, NC. 

Inexplicably, he was part of a group that toured four colleges that Friday.  UNC was the 2nd school we visited.

Will was overwhelmed with emotion when we stepped into the Smith Center, a place where Michael Jordan, Tyler Hansborough, and James Worthy's jersey's commanded our attention. A place where NCAA championship banners waved hello. 

I snapped a picture of Will's face. It was disbelief sprinkled with a glimpse of hope. 

Could this be possible? 

But … God.

Will played at camp that weekend, despite a temp of 103 and a wicked case of strep throat. He's not unlike the thousands that will sign today. Many have similar stories of overcoming obstacles, who have many people to thank. These athletes are overwhelmed at the thought that this day is here.  Will and I drove nine hours back home from the CP3 camp. 

Somewhere along the way, he started to talk. 

And remember. And ask, did God have more for him on the court? Friends, when your kids tell you their dreams, do you believe them? Yes. Of course. 

They are messy and impractical, and sometimes ridiculous. 

But do you hear what they are asking? Our kids want to know if we, the early adopters of their dream, are with them. Do the people who know them best think they can?

By the way, the answer is yes, because their question is rarely about the dream. It is about your belief in them. 

Jimmy Valvano talked about this before his death. He told his dad what he wanted to do with his life. His dad responded that his bags were packed; his dad was ready to go. 

Parents, your blessing and encouragement will unleash something profound in your kid's heart.

You will help loosen the unexplainable knowing in their soul that whispers to them that there is more. Your encouragement permits them to take the road less traveled — a place indeed littered with disillusionment, obstacles, and brokenness. Still, it's a road they will feel confident to take because you said, I believe you can. Let's go. 

And so, when that mother in the hallway told me I could not let Will, a wildly mischievous four-year-old, think that way, my instinct was and still is: watch this.

Watch God work. 

Amie Beth Shaver is a speaker, writer, media commentator – and very proud mom. Her column appears every Wednesday in 1819 News. Shaver served on the Alabama GOP State Executive Committee, was a candidate for State House 43 and spokeswoman for Allied Women. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected]