The Wednesday after an election is usually one of brow-furrowing and finger-pointing by the losing party with chest-thumping and victory-speeches by the winners. In the middle of all this, I’m touched by one story most of all, that of Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Tim Scott just last night became the first African American elected to the US Senate from the south since Reconstruction. He is also just the 9th African-American elected to the senate ever, and one of only two currently serving in those seats. Scott was earlier appointed to this seat when vacated, so has already served as Senator, but his election last night makes the above official and one for the records of history.
There are some things I agree with Scott on politically, and a few things we disagree on strongly. (But I have found that to be true of most any politician.) I’m not going to get into his political alignments or voting record right now, but instead want to focus on his story which is instructive in and of itself.
Regardless of this historical election regarding his race (which Scott doesn’t seem to make a big deal about) I find Senator Scott’s story to be the most compelling of all. Scott’s parents divorced when he was just 7, and his mother, a nursing assistant, worked 16 hour days but still couldn’t lift them out of poverty. As a teenager, Scott would work serving popcorn at the local movie theatre and on a break go to the fast-food restaurant across the street to buy fries and a water. John Moniz was the owner of that fast-food place and he noticed this habit from a repeat customer. He asked him why he wasn’t buying a bit more food, and Scott said he didn’t have the money.
Moniz soon thereafter took a bag of sandwiches over to the theatre for Scott and began to mentor him. This began a key relationship he continues to cite to this day as the most formative in his life, beyond his mother. Moniz invested in Scott and helped him stay in school, which he was struggling to do at the time, failing many classes. He taught him life lessons and most of all, his Christian faith. He passed on the “biblical business principles” he was using at his workplace, and Scott began to eat up all the sandwiches and wisdom he could from this out of the blue mentor in his life.
His young life was already at risk even being so heavily influenced by a Christian mentor, and just as things began to come together tragedy struck. When Scott was only 17 years old and coming of age, Moniz, just 38 years old, died of a massive heart attack. The death of the one person who had done so much to shape him was a crossroads for Scott. But that tragedy prompted Scott to pen a “mission statement” for his life, influenced by the example of the short but deeply impactful life of Moniz. The mission he wrote was for Scott to have a positive effect on the lives of 1 billion people before he died.
The rest of the story is one that voters have written in the polls, even if shy of a billion. But it all started with a bag of sandwiches, some compassion, and a Christian willing to take a young man under his wing and invest in him with the time he had left, even if he didn’t know the end was so soon to come.
Who are you mentoring today? How are you ensuring you aren’t just spending your life, but investing it? You never know, someday the one you’re mentoring could turn out to be a Senator!