I was excited to share with you all this week the joy of marrying Medina this two week ago. With 190 friends and family, he had a beautiful gathering of everyone who loves us, a celebration to the audacity to love, and the perfect demonstration of our love to one another. But that post will have to wait.
Tuesday morning when I signed onto Facebook, I saw my newsfeed was flooded with updates and posts to or about Brett McLean, who I went to high school with. Known for his shenanigans, I thought perhaps he posted another funny video with a Justin Beiber cutout, or maybe he too got married. As I began skimming through the posts, my heart sank through the floor of my chest. Brett had died.
Now I didn’t know Brett well. In a high school of 180 students, he was a grade below me. We only had a few classes together, and didn’t typically hang out with the same friends. We likely knew each other for the endless shanagans we both pulled at school (especially pissing off the choir teacher, which he had a special skill for). Yet in such a small school everyone knows each other better than you’d expect, and Brett and I served on student council together, and we also attended the same youth group for about a year or so. Even so, he was such a character of exploding energy, everyone knew Brett. In the handful of conversations we had, I saw a funny, outgoing, passionate, and devoted man.
What happened? I asked myself as I continued reading with increasing intensity. Brett has always had a heart for Jesus, and was an avid outdoorsman. This made church summer camp pretty much the coolest thing in the world to him. Since graduating high school, he’s continued going as a camp counselor. On Monday, they had a group of kids out at the White River Falls, in central Oregon, a few hours from where we’re from. One high school-aged camper slipped into water at the base of the falls when trying to take a picture, and Brett dove in after to rescue him. Neither were seen again.
Brett didn’t have to die to be a hero, he already was one. Many people, both younger and older, have looked up to him, whether in awe of his ridiculous and outragous antics, inspired by his religious passion, or general willingness to see everyone as equally valuable in God’s eyes, and therefore his own. Brett wasn’t just a nice guy, but he was both accepting of all, and giving to any. On Facebook, one person shared a story that captures Brett in his most core ethos. On a mission trip from Mexico, a stranger came up to Brett, and asked Brett for his hat, not knowing that it was one of his favorites. Still, without hesitation, Brett took off his hat and gave it to him.
I think it’s time we take off our hats to him. My heart goes out to his family, and thank you Brett for reminding me what it means to truly live like Jesus, even when it costs you dearly.
Last saturday at our wedding, when at midnight it became time to stop dance and start cleaning up, a few friends shared some improv poetry and impromptu speeches. Nelson, a groomsmen and my good friend, can always be counted on for a profilic speech when copious amounts of alcohol are involved. But this time he didn’t wax poetic about Carthage or the Ides of March. Instead, he simply shared this simple phrase, “We love you for what you believe in, and we believe in your for what you love.”
I believe we can all echo that mantra for Brett.
John 15:13 – “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Frank Fredericks is the founder of World Faith, r Records and Co-Founder of Religious Freedom USA. After graduating from NYU, Frank worked in the music industry, managing artists such as Lady Gaga. As an active blogger, Frank has contributed to the Huffington Post, Washington Post and Sojourners. While doing independent research in Egypt on Christian-Muslim relations, he became inspired to found World Faith, an interfaith community service organization. After developing an action-based model in New York, he traveled to conflict-prone regions finding passionate young people to replicate the model, in places like Lebanon, India, Egypt and Sudan. World Faith is now active in 14 countries. Frank also works as an independent Online marketing and PR consultant, consulting non-profits, corporations, foundations, recording artists and political campaigns on web issues ranging from viral video and social networks to SEO and advertising. After consulting Park51 (wrongly called the Òground zero mosqueÓ) on PR and social media, Frank founded Religious Freedom USA with Joshua Stanton of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, mobilizing 1,000 people in the Liberty Walk in support of Park51. Frank is an active blogger, contributing to blogs on issues ranging from business, technology, religion and music, and is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post's Religion section. He has presented World Faith to the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum in 2010. Frank frequently speaks at conferences about interfaith needs, social entrepreneurship and technology, and has been interviewed for Good Morning America, NPR, New York magazine and many others. He is an IFYC (Interfaith Youth Core) Fellow Alumnus, and is a current YouthActionNet Fellow, and Soliya Network Fellow. Frank is on the Executive Board for global tolerance, a communications firm focused on social good. Frank resides in New York, New York, where he still performs as a professional musician with local artists. He has a love for languages, studying one or more at any given time. At home, he has a passion for cooking Italian food.