“My mom hadn’t ate in probably two or three days, so I went into a pizza parlor and I told the guy, ‘Can I just have a pizza? I promise you, man, I’ll pay you back.’”
James Jones played nine seasons in the NFL where he won a title with the Green Bay Packers in 2011 and in 2012 he led the NFL for most touchdown grabs with 14. The dude put up great numbers throughout his career. However, as a child, Jones had a different type of statistic. He was one of the estimated 500,000 Americas who every year experience homelessness. Jones and his mother spent many evenings in homeless shelters, motel rooms, and even sleeping on park benches.
Jones’s mother struggled with drug addiction, as did his father, who had left them after the couple divorced when Jones was only 18 months old. With his father out of the picture, Jones stayed by his mother’s side during some pretty bleak times. In an interview with ESPN’s Michelle Beisner, he recounted one of the lowest moments when he had to resort to begging so they could eat. Jones told Beisner, “I stood in that pizza parlor for probably over an hour begging this man, and he finally gave me a pizza and I took it to my mom.”
Although his mother’s addiction inflicted great pain in his childhood, James always forgave her.
On the GameChange podcast, Thru the Tunnel, company co-founders Paul McDonald and Jack Baric discuss why James’ ability to forgive and move on was so important to him being able to have a successful and joyful life. McDonald explains, “When people live in the past, it’s typically the traumas that they’ve had. And when they carry those with them, they have a hard time moving forward, they have a hard time being happy, they have challenges in their lives.”
The ability to forgive his mother allowed James to move forward unencumbered from the past and forge his own path toward a great life. Baric states, “Had he held onto those hurts, first of all, he probably would’ve never made it to the NFL. Secondly, even if he did, he’d be this miserable guy who had maybe won some trophies but didn’t have anybody to share them with because he was so upset with life because of what had happened to him as a kid. But he let it go, and he was forgiving.”
When he was a kid, Jones would promise his mother that he would buy her a house one day, which was the ultimate dream for a family that was homeless. The beautiful end to the story is that when Jones signed his first big NFL contract, he was able to fulfill that promise. Jones’s story serves as a wonderful example that painful struggles of our past can be used as fuel to help others in the future. That is the beautiful power of forgiveness.