A good Samaritan blew me away with his kindness when I injured myself playing basketball this week and I’ve just discovered who the “stranger” is.
I began writing this column about the service of an unknown person, but imagine my surprise when I googled his name just now and realized the soft-spoken gentleman, who I am 100 percent certain has no idea he helped someone affiliated with a news organization, is Huntsville City Councilman Devyn S. Keith.
Here’s what happened:
For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to join a mostly men’s basketball league at the Hogan Family YMCA in Madison, even though I was out of shape and out of my league (I arrived for the first game last month and thought I’d stumbled into a Lakers practice).
My short grab at glory ended Thursday night when I jumped for a rebound and felt a painful pop in my foot.
I hobbled to the sideline, tore my shoe off, then stumbled out of the gym, red-faced, embarrassed, dying to find a chair somewhere alone-ish to catch my breath, swallow my pride, and figure out what to do.
A young man must have broken away from his own team to grab the shoe I’d flung off and bring it to me in the lobby. He found me and told me to wait; he’d get ice.
The Good Samaritan taped the ice to my foot, kindly talking to me about what I needed to do right when I got home to help it heal.
He was humble and gentle, and when he was sure I was okay, he asked if there was anything else he could do to help me. I sheepishly told him I had left my water bottle and bag in the gym … would he bring them to me? He happily retrieved them, asked me if I was sure I was okay, and sincerely wished me “a blessed night.”
He hadn’t offered his name, but I asked for it and repeated it to myself all the way home so I wouldn’t forget. I wanted to write him a note, tell the gym director about him — do something to show my gratitude for his sincerity and warmth.
Here’s what I’ve just found out about that kind stranger.
Devyn Keith is a Huntsville city council member, former Sparkman High School student and full-scholarship football player at Samford University. When he was a Birmingham student, he began a nonprofit called Brothers of 1 Voice, to “educate, empower and advocate for youths who have aged out of state support services,” according to his website.
He’s a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he earned a master’s degree in public administration and he’s involved in the Big Brother Big Sister of America mentoring program.
According to a 2016 campaign video, Keith said he was “born and raised in Huntsville, the product of a single mother, and subsequently, the product of a large, extensive, diverse community network.”
“I’ve been blessed beyond belief to have people to call family who don’t share any of my blood,” Keith said in the video.
“I believe in the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, but I also believe that that child, at some point, should help raise the village,” he said. “I believe it’s Matthew 23:11 that says, ‘The greatest among us are called to be servants.’ I simply want to serve. I want to serve and be a servant to the community that I call home. That’s why I’m running.”
At 27-years-old, Keith went on to win his bid for District 1 City Council, beating 7-time councilman Richard Showers and garnering more than two-thirds of the overall vote, according to Paul Gattis in this 2016 Al.com introduction to the new councilmember.
It’s easy to forget how it feels to be weak or sick or hurt when all is going well, when I’m feeling healthy and strong, when life is full and hectic, but good. Keith’s act of kindness is a powerful example to me of the impact it makes when someone busy sees a need and stops to help.
Maybe Devyn Keith feels what he did was no big deal. Maybe he’ll be embarrassed that I wrote about it. But to me, his actions meant a great deal.
The orthopedic said I ruptured something-or-other and now I’m in a very attractive boot for several weeks. I’m bummed but I don’t regret my short-lived basketball season for three reasons:
— I had a dang good time.
— My kids know Mom attempted a David and Goliath stunt that I hope will inspire them to take risks.
— Best of all, I met Devyn Keith.
Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.
(Editor’s note: As Rachel’s editor and her proud husband, I have the right to insert this quick smartphone video I took of a recent game to prove she’s actually pretty good. Look at #12’s pass! — Pepper)