I never met the man. I didn’t even know him. But his last act has touched my life in a profound way. Here’s what happened four days ago.
With visions of Happy Meals dancing in her head, four-year-old Kaniyah and her dad, Joseph Richardson, left a Chicago apartment for dinner last Monday night. Walking several short blocks to the nearby McDonald’s was one of the simple pleasures she shared with her father, a 39-year-old musician and choir director. With the sun hanging low in the sky, the father/daughter duo talked and laughed as they made their way to the Golden Arches.
That’s when the near-perfect spring evening turned deadly.
They never made it.
Maybe it was the erratic driving of the oncoming red Chevy Cavalier that initially caught Joseph’s eye. Perhaps it was the screech of the tires as the car jumped the curb. Whatever tipped him off that he and his precious little girl were directly in the line of danger, we’ll never know. With only a split-second to react, Joseph grabbed Kaniyah and lifted her above his head so she’d avoid the impact of the car racing toward them.
In the blink of an eye Joseph, shielding his daughter as best he could, was pinned by the car to a black wrought iron fence directly behind them. He died at the scene. While this father of three was killed, his quick thinking and self-sacrifice saved his daughter.
I’m still numb thinking about it.
Several of the news accounts that I’ve read focused on the fact that the motorist, Angelo Thomas, though 32-years-old, had no drivers license–and never did. Or that he had been drinking and had several prior counts of aggravated driving under the influence. Or that he had no auto insurance and, therefore, no means to compensate the young girl for the loss of her father.
Personally, I’m far more impacted by the heart of this dad.
A man who gave no thought for his own well-being.
A man who laid down his life so his daughter would live.
The fact that Joseph didn’t hesitate reveals something about his core character. After all, how we react in a crisis or when the pressure is on speaks volumes about what we believe, what we value, and what drives us. That said, what kind of person lays down his life for his child? Put another way, what kind of love moves a parent to act instinctively in such a heroic manner?
Sure, I’d love to think that all parents would do the same for their son or daughter if given the chance. And yet, far too often the headlines are filled with selfish or disturbed parents who drown their kids in a bathtub, who leave them unattended in a car, who strap a baby in a car seat to die while they play video games for days on end, or who drowns herself along with her children in a river.
Just when a string of these unspeakable actions threaten to poison the soul of a nation, Joseph Richardson models the antidote. His display of love has a supernatural ring to it, does it? After all, it was Jesus who said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I think it’s safe to say Joseph was well aware of these words. His father was a pastor and, as a gifted pianist and organist, Joseph played the keyboard in his dad’s church for decades.
And in the end, Joseph practiced what was preached.