Thursday, April 07, 2011
A Dandy Lion Among Us
I’ve never met Jason Ritter. But he has profoundly affected my life.
No, I’m not talking about the son of the late actor John Ritter. I’m talking about a 33-year-old teacher who died a couple of weeks ago in Parker, Colorado. He was a teacher at Legend High School. I’ve never seen a picture of him, nor met any of his family or students.
But he has affected me. Here’s how.
Last weekend my sister-in-law Lory told me about attending Jason Ritter’s memorial service the week before. He attended Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, but because of the crowd expected, the service was held at Southeast Christian Church. Lory said the church was packed, with most of Legend attending as well as many family and friends. Her son Hunter, a student at Legend, attended even though he’d never had Mr. Ritter for a teacher.
Lory said that students and friends spoke about Jason Ritter and the life he lived with tremendous affection. He loved Jesus, his wife and new child. And he loved his students. The kids told how Mr. Ritter made them laugh and think. They loved him. Lory told me that one adult summed up Mr. Ritter’s professional career when he said, “There are good teachers. There are bad teachers. And then there are difference makers. Jason Ritter was a difference maker.”
Jason had been fighting cancer for months. He often told his students as they visited and prayed for him, “Expect a miracle.”
Before he died he told a friend, “I’m worried about the kids. They’ve been expecting a miracle and I don’t think they’re going to get it.”
When Lory told us this, our friend Char said, “Those kids are the miracle.”
I agree with Char. I also think pieces of that miracle are those moments when a few of those kids decide to become teachers, difference makers, simply because Mr. Ritter made a difference in them. Part of the miracle is that teenager, and I am SURE there is at least one, who watched Mr. Ritter love Jesus even as a public school teacher and then decided to give Jesus a chance himself. Part of the miracle is the countless conversations that have happened in the last two weeks that inspire people to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Jason Ritter is now in heaven, hanging out with Jesus. That’s a miracle, too. Jason Ritter’s widow, who I’m sure is going through unimaginable grief, will experience God’s comfort. She will. And that’s a miracle.
When we discover that among us, near us, is someone who finds a way to live above the bondage of self and pour his life into others, we are inspired. We see that the extraordinary is possible. In each of us. Not just Jason Ritter.
I picture a dandelion, that little white weed that kids are enthralled with. It is a part of childhood joy to take one of those dandelions and blow on it and watch the tiny little white seeds scatter through the wind, falling randomly. At the same time, a parent says, “Don’t do that, child. Everywhere those seeds fall, a new dandelion grows.”
Could it be that our God can turn the tragedy of such a young death into a miracle? I say yes. I say that the little seeds of Jason Ritter’s love are scattering through the wind right now and landing and inspiring others to grow up to be difference makers.
He’s influenced me and I never met him. Thank you, Jason Ritter.