When Gideon George arrived at New Mexico Junior College, the newest member of the Thunderbirds’ basketball team, he found things to be quite different from his home in Minna, Nigeria. He had an air-conditioned dorm with indoor plumbing, for example. The basketball courts were not made of cracked concrete or hard-crusted dirt. And in Nigeria, you didn’t typically see a pair of almost-new basketball shoes in the trash.
So, when Gideon walked past a garbage can in his college dorm and saw some perfectly good shoes, he asked, “Can I have these?” But he wasn’t asking for himself. Instead, his mind was on the people he knew in Minna whose shoes—if they had any—were old pieces of rubber tires crudely stitched or glued together by hand. He may also have remembered the day, years ago back in Nigeria, when he was approached by a local basketball coach who offered a pair of donated shoes if Gideon would join his team.
With all that in mind, Gideon started collecting secondhand shoes, first from his teammates and then from other athletes on campus. Eventually the school’s athletic department joined the effort, offering free tickets to basketball games for fans who donated shoes. As his collection grew, Gideon contacted a nonprofit organization to help him ship the shoes to Nigeria. They agreed, expecting maybe a dozen or so pairs. Two hundred arrived. Another one hundred and fifty followed. And that was just the beginning.
Playing basketball in the United States has been a blessing for Gideon. But just as important to him is seeing pictures of smiling boys and girls in Nigeria who receive the shoes he has sent. “That’s where I get my joy,” he says.1
Sometimes we think joy comes from personal comfort or personal achievement. But Gideon George reminds us that more often, it comes from bringing a smile to someone’s face. It doesn’t matter if that person lives across the world or across the street. Our efforts might seem small, but among all the big things we do in life, lifting and blessing someone else might actually be the biggest. One of Gideon George’s teammates put it best when he said, “[Gideon] does things that are bigger than basketball.”2
August 29, 2021
Broadcast Number 4,798
The Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
All Creatures of Our God and King
German hymn tune; arr. Mack Wilberg
Look at the World
Who Will Buy? from Oliver!
Lionel Bart; arr. Michael Davis
Where Can I Turn for Peace?
Joleen G. Meredith; arr. Mack Wilberg
Thou Lovely Source of True Delight