Court Crandall had watched his son, Chase, play basketball on club teams for several years with students from nearby Compton High School of Los Angeles, whose 2530 students divides into 74 percent Hispanic and 25 percent African American. Father and son discussed the divide between the opportunities that students from his own school in Manhattan Beach enjoyed in contrast to those of students at Compton.
The dropout rate in 2009-2010 at Compton reached 27 percent. Of the 317 graduates in 2010, only two had completed course work required for entrance into the University of California or California State.
Crandall, an advertising executive, created a competition for Compton graduating seniors. Applicants had to have at least a 3.0 GPA, which narrowed the field from 500 to 80 students. Eight were chosen at random to participate in a free throw contest. The winner would receive $40,000 in scholarship money to the school of his or her choice. All other contestants would receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Participants included Victory Holley, a band majorette and one of twelve children being raised by their single mother. Omar Guzman would be the first high school graduate in his family. Efren Arellano’s parents are immigrants, working in factories to give their children some hope for a future. Allan Guei, son of Ivory Coast immigrants, was the captain of the basketball team, but he still qualified academically. All eight had been accepted into colleges, but had no idea how they would afford them.
Crandall “thought the free throw is a good metaphor in a world where there’s a bunch of lines that are kind of dividing us. The focus became, how do we show the world another side of Compton, that’s more positive, beyond the stereotypical guns and crime stuff?” He filmed the project as a documentary, “Free Throw,” which he will submit to the Sundance Film Festival in September.
The contest took place in March in Compton’s packed field house. Guei won the $40,000 prize. Crandall shocked the other seven students by announcing that his company had raised enough money to provide scholarships for one year of tuition for all seven.
In June, “Free Throw” had a major unscripted plot twist. Guei returned the $40,000 to Crandall with instructions to divide it between the other seven participants. Guei had received a full scholarship from Cal State Northridge. He said, “I’ve already been blessed so much and I know we’re living with a bad economy, so I know this money can really help my classmates. It was the right decision.”
Perhaps Guei has insulated himself from marketing propaganda to nurture the virtue of contentment, a satisfaction with one’s status and condition in life. Guei’s vision has not become near-sighted from the perpetual exposure to the blinding glitter of an affluent America. He has not developed cravings that make him a selfish opportunist.
This high school graduate still sees others around him with their needs. He has kindled compassion and generosity rather than indifference and greed. His decision to distribute the money to his classmates would stun most Americans.
Here is humanity at its best. This benevolence should inspire all of us to examine our own habits. Most of us enjoy an abundance far beyond what we truly need to be content. One has to wonder why.
We enter the world without anything and we exit the world without anything. That should give us a clue about the nature of possessions. Jesus told his disciples that we are merely stewards of God’s household (Luke 12:42). That means that nothing we possess really belongs to us, but we are only managing it for someone else.
A manager wants to maximize the productivity of his personnel and resources in a way that benefits the company (or in this case, the household). If he manages those resources to benefit himself only, he will not be working for that company very long.
Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required and to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48) Allan Guei has demonstrated marvelous managerial skills. How much more should those of us who know the Master of the household give generously to the needs that exceed ours?