The Boy from Troy

A portrait of John Lewis.


A young boy was born to a sharecropper on the outskirts of Troy, AL. He was the third of ten children. Not many people would project that he could make much of a difference, but the Boy from Troy became a difference-maker. Let me share five lessons of life that we can learn from John Lewis.

  1. Where you start from is not nearly as important as where you end up. John Lewis came from humble means and credits his faith in God for giving him the vision to make a difference in the world. He went from the cotton fields of Alabama to the Congress of the U.S.A. The Boy from Troy went from the Preacher of Pike County to the Conscience of Congress!

    As a boy, he carried a Bible with him to school. He had the nickname of “Preacher.” There’s a great story of how his family raised chickens. They say that John would herd the chickens into a corner of the barnyard and preach to them. He always said that the chickens listened and responded better than a lot of humans to whom he spoke!
  1. John Lewis started with humble beginnings and always remained humble. He never forgot where he came from. People in Troy tell about how he would often slip into a classroom at Charles Henderson Elementary School just to observe one of his family members in class and gladly give words of encouragement to the youngsters. He never felt that he was too big to go to little places to speak to people.
  1. He was a man of action. He used a great term, “good trouble.” He didn’t want to go about making trouble, but sometimes he had to make “good trouble” to bring about change. His “good trouble” was always constructive, not destructive. He advocated nonviolence. He said, “Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way… History has proven time and again that nonviolent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.” His action was based on Matthew 22:36-40.
  1. His philosophy of nonviolence created constructive change. He was in the lead of several hundred people who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. He was one of the first to be attacked by the Alabama State Troopers. He received a fractured skull and broken ribs. He said he wasn’t sure if he would live beyond that day, but he never doubted the nonviolent strategy. The whole world saw the results of his strategy. His first crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was violent. His last crossing of the bridge on Sunday, July 26, 2020, was in a horse-drawn carriage with the streets lined with many Alabama State Troopers protecting his body and standing at attention at the spot where he was beaten and saluting him. The State Troopers led the procession of his casket from Atlanta to Troy, to Selma, to Montgomery – and were standing near his body when it was transported back to Washington. His strategy will always stand as a great victory on the scoreboard of life.
  1. The Pike County Preacher, the Boy from Troy, the Conscience of Congress always lived his faith. His faith dictated his politics rather than allowing politics to dictate his faith. Faith should always shape our vision, our vocation, and our victories.

Put into practice these lessons, and share them with some young people!

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