Kenny Mckinley is remembered by his Denver Bronco teammates as a fun loving, gregarious, and happy man, who tragically took his own life, losing a battle with depression. The symptoms were there: this was the second consecutive year that he had season ending knee surgery and he had a very difficult time coping with his inability to play the game he loved so much. Unfortunately, no one realized that such a happy and loving person had the potential to harm himself.
For Mckinley, Football was his life. It was the game that afforded him the opportunity for glory. He had fun playing and inspired others to enjoy the game as much as he did. When his teammates were feeling down, he would pick up their spirits; when they were nervous, he would help them relax. In a way, Football was his Temple and he was the Rabbi or Pastor. But when that opportunity was taken away for the second year in a row; when he couldn’t be there to support his team, couldn’t inspire others, and couldn’t enjoy the game he loved so dear, he apparently felt that his life had lost its meaning.
When his reason for living was missing, he didn’t feel a reason to live.
What can we learn from Kenny Mckinley’s tragic death? Most of us have a primary focus in our lives, something that gives our lives meaning. For some, it’s family, for others it’s a job or a hobby about which we are passionate. But what happens when we experience difficulties in that primary area of our lives? How do we handle that adversity? Do we allow ourselves to be overcome with thoughts of despair or do we find a way to re-channel our focus and persevere?
At that very moment we need to make a crucial decision about the direction of our life. We have at least two positive options: We can continue on the same road, working harder than ever before and overcome our problems, or we can choose another vocation, another mission in life that will give us meaning and satisfaction.
The third option, despair and suicide, should not be on the table. If we look hard enough and give it our all, we can always find something to give meaning to our lives.
When life presents us with challenges the hope is that we can prevail by working harder to reach our original goal or by finding a new calling.
Kenny Mckinley was an inspiration to all who knew him and I hope that we can learn from his tragic and early death the importance of finding meaning in the array of opportunities that the world has to offer, so that when one challenge may prove too difficult to handle, we can find meaning in a different one.
After all, the game of life isn’t over at the end of the first quarter.