“I sat at the restaurant, right by the now-grown boy who used to wear the №8 jersey.
And I marveled.
Now 19, newly graduated from high school, he leaned in toward the teenage girl sitting next to him, asking questions about her tastes and interests, leading the conversation.
He was like a new-generation Humphrey Bogart, confidant, out on the town, in total control of the situation, his movements oozing panache, his smile perfect.
Watching this young man named Levi, I wanted to stand and applaud the untamed power of the human spirit. I have known Levi since he was five years old, watching him play soccer on that ragged field in Beijing, reporting a story about a physically-deformed boy who had been left to die in a cornfield, and about the unfailing efforts of his adopted mother, who had achieved something that bordered on the impossible.
Levi’s life was one that had literally risen from the ashes, with the help of his indomitable savior, Lisa Misraje.
On the sidelines of that youth soccer game in 2007, the woman who would eventually become a dear friend marveled aloud as she watched her child careen across the soccer field.
His lower face was a mask of scar tissue, his left arm gone at the elbow, the toes on his left foot missing as he zigzagged along the grass in defiance of his disabilities.
Lisa saw none of those imperfections.
She saw something beautiful.
“Isn’t he happy?” she said. “Look at the joy coming out of him!” John Glionna