This week's winner of the High's Hero Award recognizing people who are making an eternal difference is Keith Hays.
"Friend" doesn't quite cut it when trying to describe what Keith is to me. Keith is the older brother I never had.
I have never had anyone talk to me the way Keith Hays talks to me. Keith tells me I'm wrong. Every time I think I'm "feeling called" to do something he tells me to go back and double check. He's always telling me to "wait on the Lord" and to "rest" when everyone else seems to be leading me to more and more action.
I first met Keith 12 years ago when Emily took a teaching/girls basketball coaching job at Spring Hill High School. Keith's wife Kim (Herron) was the head coach.
Keith struck me as an extremely funny guy. He was also an extremely passionate fan of his wife's team. At that time there was no real depth to our friendship.
It wasn't until many years later that our relationship took on a new direction. Out of the blue Keith invited Emily and me to attend a fundraising dinner for a little school in Franklin called New Hope Academy. Despite my protests that I was a public school guy, didn't much care for "Christian" schools and that me going was a waste of time because I wasn't going to write a check, Keith insisted that we join him at his table.
Long story short, we did go. I fell in love with New Hope Academy and their mission. I wrote a big check. I became a New Hope Academy evangelist.
Keith loves New Hope because the school was founded to serve low-income and underprivileged children. Basically for every student that pays tuition New Hope gives a full scholarship to a child that can't afford it. They don't pay for field trips, school supplies, standard school attire....nothing. Along the journey, New Hope ends up ministering to and educating a lot of single moms too. When you walk onto the campus the first thing that hits you is the diversity. Last time I checked it's 51% white and 47% African American. They don't try to package Jesus into a stale Bible class or mandatory chapel service. They try to show how our faith weaves itself into everything from physical education to English to science. They strive for excellence in academics with a classical format that includes Latin and the arts.
Keith is one of the first people to really make me look into the lives of the poor. He taught me that if you want to make a difference in the life of a poor person you have to be the one to initiate and pursue the relationship. He is continually bringing before me new opportunities to give. The latest is the Red Road Ministry led by Charles and Siouxsan Robinson on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Whitefish, Montana.
Keith works for Hays Advisory but his work does not define him. He is God's first, Kim's second and Taylor, Lauren & Grant's third. He is always smiling, always giving, always positive, always praying....about something or someone. He oozes with the Spirit and makes everyone around him better.
I am definitely a better person thanks to Keith.
I, along with countless others, can say without question that Keith Hays has made an eternal difference in my life.