“A Phenomenal Gift” By David Sahadi The Spirit Of Wrestling
May 12th, 2005 14:50
TNAwrestling.com is proud to announce that TNA producer David Sahadi has joined the website team for a bi-monthly column on the world of wrestling and his experiences in the sport. In his first contribution, Sahadi shares the story of Derrick McClure, a fan who realized a dream by meeting AJ Styles last week during a film shoot. Sahadi will return with a new column in the upcoming weeks here on TNAwrestling.com.

“A Phenomenal Gift”

When he awoke at 9:00 on a cloudy Friday morning, he was as excited as a schoolboy on Christmas day, even though the calendar said it was May. There would be no school today, though that was not the reason for this youngster’s happiness. A dream was about to come true. In just a few hours, fifteen-year-old Derrick McClure was going to meet one of his heroes, TNA Superstar AJ Styles.

On this glorious morning he shunned the school bus and rode with his mom in their Thunderbird to his father’s place of work, a concrete factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was there that Derrick was going to meet AJ Styles while The Phenomenal One was filmed training for his upcoming title match against Jeff Jarrett at Hard Justice.

When AJ first emerged from our vehicle, Derrick’s eyes widened. A discernible smile immediately beamed from ear to ear. His joy spread even further, beyond his physical reactions, beyond the realms of our perceptible knowing. In moments like this you can truly feel the positive energy of glee and exhilaration expand. If you’re a caring human being, it touches you.

“Hello Derrick,” said AJ as he approached the youngster. Overcome with enthusiasm, Derrick extended his eager hand in greeting and was momentarily lost for words.

While I discussed the impending shoot with our cameraman, AJ engaged Derrick fully. Photos were snapped, hugs shared, conversation easily exchanged. It unmistakably became clear that this was no longer about idol and fan, superstar and mark. The camaraderie between the two was genuine, as if they were big brother and little brother, familiar friends, or, perhaps even more profoundly, two kindred spirits lapping in the tender tides of life.

For fifteen minutes AJ gave Derrick - who is a special-needs child - his undivided attention. More importantly, he gave Derrick something far more significant than a photo op and the excitement that comes from a brush with celebrity. He gave Derrick status. Status as someone of equal importance. Status as a human being. It was a moment that was not lost on Derrick’s father, Randall McClure.

“AJ did not look upon Derrick as a child with a disability,” noted Randall, “but rather a big fan of wrestling. That meant a lot.”

When the shoot began, AJ went through a grueling workout in the abandoned section of the massive factory, doing pushups and pull-ups amongst dust and ash, running tirelessly up countless flights of concrete stairs that rose above the rubble of a this once mighty edifice. Soon he was covered with sweat and soot, the grime nonetheless unable to deter his spirits or conceal the dark, reddened scabs suffered in his recent brutal cage match against the monster Abyss at Lockdown. All the while, as AJ grunted and gasped for air, and fresh blood emerged from those recent wounds, Derrick stood quietly in the shadows, camera in hand, a smile indelibly etched on his youthful face.

“AJ is my favorite wrestler,” he gushed, “because of his high-flying moves and his athleticism.” After today, AJ’s compassion was surely another attribute Derrick admired.

Later that night, while dining at the Big River Brewing Company in downtown Chattanooga before the return home, I commended AJ.

“Thanks for giving Derrick some of your time today,” I praised.

“It was nothing,” AJ humbly replied.

“You are mistaken. It was something. You made his day. That young boy will remember that brief moment for the rest of his life.”

AJ turned to me and smiled. It became evident that he was now the teacher imparting invaluable wisdom on me.

“As I said, it was nothing at all,” he reiterated. Finally, I grasped the essence of the message.

AJ had given something far greater than a material gift that would rust and wither with time. He had given the simple yet profound gift of himself. That is a treasure both free and priceless, one that has the power to elevate and expand, one that dwells in the ether and echoes forever through time. It is a blessing so easy to give, yet so seldom given in the self-absorbed culture we live in today.

We give little when we give of our possessions; we give greatly when we give of ourselves. That is a universal principle, one that transcends the laws of man and the dogmas of mans’ religions.

That day, AJ’s kindness made a great impact. And not just on Derrick.

“A father is many things to his child,” remarked Randall. “He can be a friend, a mentor, a coach, or one of any number of hats depending on the circumstances. AJ’s visit (at my place of work) made me a hero to my son. I can’t thank him enough.”

Two weeks later, Randall says Derrick is still smiling.

Two weeks later, I find myself smiling, too.
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