When I grew up in Southern Ohio, I really didn’t worry about anything bad happening in my neighborhood.
I used to jog around my community at 10 p.m. in the summer because it was cooler. I ran through the streets alone, I didn’t have a cell-phone back then, and my parents never worried about my safety. I never felt threatened growing up. I was an athlete and thought I could take care of myself if danger presented itself. Plus, I was a really fast runner too.
But T.J. Starks lived the opposite life as a kid than I did.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am
I Corinthians 11: 1
He grew up in Lancaster, Texas, near Dallas, amidst violence and uncertainty. He had no role model as a child, but he relied on his instincts for survival.
For T.J. to make it out and have a chance for success is amazing.
“I was exposed to a lot of things at a young age and seen a lot of stuff you ain’t supposed to see as a kid,” he said at the Athletes in Action Basketball Captains Academy in Xenia, Ohio, when I visited in May.
As a youngster, he witnessed violence at all levels, from burglaries to homicides. “My home was broken into, I saw other places robbed and I saw people shot,” he added.
He could have easily fallen through the cracks and succumbed to a life of crime. After all, according to numbers from Neighborhood Scout, Dallas has a high crime rate. They score Dallas as a nine out of the safest score of 100.
“You have to grow up and mature to survive,” T.J. said. “You just know at a young age that life moves quickly and you have to keep up or get left behind.”