Today call me lucky. Still.

Today call me lucky, a fact I’ve been giving renewed thought to since my routine dental checkup last Thursday.

There I lay, my dentist’s gloved hands probing what had to be my larynx as he talked about The Black Swan (the theory, not the movie).

He suggested that our lives aren’t what we plan, but instead a series of unexpected events continually redirecting our paths in ways we can’t foresee.  I listened and made exaggerated eyebrow gestures by way of response. I swallowed my spit and wondered why dentists ask questions with their fingers in our mouths.

“Saawgsoogg,” I gurgled.  And my dentist smiled.

The following Saturday, I sat in my sister Nancy’s backyard talking with Jason Lavin of, a man who’s been friends with my brother-in-law Randy for decades. I couldn’t wait to thank both men for the part they played in launching this blog. Still, it’s the chain of unexpected events in Jason’s life that had me thinking about luck and The Black Swan.

In the spring of 2010, Jason’s wife went to a local mall with a group of friends and their children. We who are parents know how quickly time moves, how easily love slips from our fingers. The youngest Lavin child momentarily escaped his mother, making his way to the base of a nearby escalator with the usual rubber railings running in a loop up the handles on each side.

Jimmy stood on the outside of the escalator, placed both hands on the sticky rubber handle, then found his hands moving upward.  As his feet left the floor he held on, afraid of falling.  He was dragged up the outside of the escalator, his body dangling along the wall.  Jimmy Lavin was four years old.

As he reached the top of the escalator some thirty feet above the first floor, Jimmy hit the second-story wall and began his downward plummet, head first.  It was at this moment that a young man named Antonio Jones stepped under Jimmy’s path and caught the child by his feet as his head was about to meet the ground.

Following the incident, Antonio shied away from public praise, from being labeled the hero who’d saved Jimmy’s life.  But Jason persisted in digging into his story and discovered that Antonio had never met his father; that his mother, who had ten other children, had been incarcerated when Antonio was fourteen.

Raised by an overwhelmed grandmother in inner-city Chicago, the teenaged Antonio had gotten involved in drugs and been arrested. At the age of 21, he’d fled parole and come to California.

Jimmy Lavin’s hero was a fugitive from the state of Illinois.

Jason couldn’t help looking at his own three children when considering Antonio, a kid whose luck had run in the opposite direction.  Do we make our own choices?  Certainly.  But the options we perceive to be available to us aren’t always equal.

Regardless of our politics or our thoughts about the criminal justice system, perhaps we can agree life isn’t fair; that good and bad aren’t doled out equally in this world.  Antonio had a rough start and Jason was determined to shift his tide of fortune.

They were, in different ways, each other’s Black Swans.

Jason introduced Antonio to his friends and family who wrote letters on behalf of a young man who wanted very much to be good.  Jason counseled and mentored Antonio, helping him take the first step toward changing his own life.  And on September 20th, five months after he “caught Jimmy from the sky,” Antonio Jones surrendered to investigators from the state of Illinois.

Jason flew to Chicago with Antonio, stood by his side handing authorities a book filled with testimonies from friends and family of the Lavins who wanted to express their support for Antonio’s decision to take responsibility for the wrongs of his past while beginning the rights of his future.

In the wake of these endorsements, Antonio’s good behavior and the measured judgment of the parole board, Antonio served two months of what could’ve been a two-year sentence.  He then enrolled in Taller San Jose, a program that walks young people out of poverty by offering the hope of a productive and self-reliant future.

Jason Lavin and Antonio Jones give their story up to God, believing He had a hand in every decision – right and wrong – that placed one man below one child to avert unimaginable tragedy.

I, myself, give it up to good. I think people who look for good in others can find it there and in themselves, no matter how naïve that belief may seem to be.

I watched Jimmy Lavin on Saturday night.  He wore his first-ever soccer jersey, arriving fresh from a day on the fields.  I saw his blue eyes twinkle as he rolled striped and solid balls around Randy and Nancy’s pool table.  I smiled as he and his tow-headed brother warmed up to a houseful of other lucky kids whirling around them.

And when Jimmy ran to Jason, tugging on his father’s arm in excitement, I asked Jimmy if he liked playing soccer.  He nodded sincerely and opened his eyes wide. “I scored ONE goal in TWO games,” he said with a shy smile, before heading back to join the other children.

Can anyone give proper thanks for being so very lucky? Jason, his wife and children, their extended family and friends, are all certainly trying.

And I?

Will keep closing my eyes and taking deep breaths as I greet the Black Swans in this life. I will keep looking for the best in others in the small hope they’ll see something worthy in me.

And I will always, always keep giving it up to good.



59 thoughts on “Today call me lucky. Still.

  1. What a beautiful story, Julie. Thank you so much for sharing this.


  2. Wow, this is a truly inspiring story and post. It brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Oh Julie. What a story. I am more of a give it up to good kind of girl too, but when I read things like this, it just feels like it was supposed to happen this way.

  4. Courtney

    Everything happens for a reason right Jules?! Your words are beautiful as always and I logged in this morning after just contemplating something similar. The 6th sense is still there. XOXO

  5. cousin Heather

    Julie, what an AMAZING story. You brought me to tears. I am thankful to have you in the family and someone I’ve always looked up to (even from across the country!)

  6. I wish I had known you last year when this was first shared, but I am so lucky to know you now.

    My heart was in a lump in my throat, and then you made it burst with love and warmth and all those other things that YOU embody.

    This was a tear-jerker of the good kind, the kind that makes you look within and brush off cobwebs that can sometimes make you view the world through a jaded lens.

    I am thankful for knowing you, Julie.

  7. Lucky indeed! Oh Julie, I imagine Jason thanks God for Antonio every time he sees Jimmy smile. And Antonio, wow.

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I needed my faith in the kindness of strangers renewed. You’ve done it once again.

  8. This story just enthralled me – how incredibly lucky that boy was there – for both of them!

  9. And again, you are moving and funny and seamless and wonderful.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Julie C. Gardner.

    And thank you for being part of the good I give it up to.

  10. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

    I am a blubbering mess over this. I used to work in Detroit and think about situations like this all the time; there are so many good kids out there who make bad choices, in part because their opportunities are so limited, and kids model what surrounds them a great deal of the time.

    What a perfect reminder during this holiday season to keep our hearts open to the goodness around us, and to try to be better ourselves.


    p.s. Not to make light of any of this, but yes-WTH is going on with dentists and hygenists trying to make conversations when they are working in our mouths???

  11. AllyT

    Loved it just as much the second time!

  12. Jessica Lundquist Tessler

    Going to read that book…now.

  13. Your writing moves me to tears. As for everything you said? Saawgsoogg. Saawgs very oogg, indeed.

  14. Writing through tears to say wow….

    Simply amazing, and so beautifully written.

  15. shana

    I love you. That is all I can type through clouded wet eyes.

  16. Beautiful.

    I can’t remember when I met you (within the last year) but I am very thankful for that!

  17. KLZ

    This is perhaps the best story of thankfulness ever. We have so much.

  18. Stories like this are so important for the world’s psyche to take in.

    Thank you for letting us see it…

    Happy Thanksgiving, dear Julie.

    Much love to you and yours.

  19. This story is amazing.

    I have never seen the movie The Black Swan, neither have I heard of the theory, but I like it.

    I do believe that there is good in every.single.person. Even the most horrible monsters probably cared deeply and affectionately for someone.

    This is a beautiful thanksgiving post, my friend. Beautiful.

  20. What an amazing story. I’m in awe. And utterly inspired. Goodness is as goodness does–that’s you, my friend, spreading such positive energy. Thank you for sharing this. I think too often we get bogged down in the crap humanity throws at us. It does my heart good to know such beauty exists.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, Julie.

  21. Holy shit.

    I am stunned by this. And need to rethink what I’m complaining about.

  22. Julie? This post is perfection. Luck and goodness and all that is right inis world places us right where we need to be, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s a perfect read to keep in my pocket for when i need to see (really see) goodness.


  23. Jessica

    What an amazing story of the true meaning of gratitude. I also believe in finding the good in everyone and am overwhelmed by the gratitude I feel when I truly think about all of the people who have helped make my family what it is today. Such a beautiful story.

  24. Jill

    I too, like to find the good in everyone and everything. Doesn’t always have a happy ending, but it is always full of life lessons. Beautiful story Julie! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  25. Annabelle

    This? This is amazing. This of the kind of story everyone should read.

    Love this.

    Love you.

  26. Abby

    OK…time to play a game of six degrees of separation…Do you know anyone who knows someone who knows Oprah? This story is one I could see her taking an interest in. Too bad she’s not on anymore. Oh, wait. Call her network… 🙂

    This story(which I remember from this time last year) brought tears to my eyes when I read it the first time, and I thank you for sharing it again. This truly gives meaning to everything Thanksgiving is about–family, gratitude for all that we have, and for seeking out the good in the world, in people and in ourselves.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. Well, I’m glad you re-posted because it is a beautiful reminder to refrain from judgement and to see people as a whole rather than a sum of some bad judgments. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

  28. EEK! That story freaked me out, I’m not going to lie. Thank you for sharing this, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  29. This was beautiful and inspirational and a bit unsettling. I needed something else to think about today, because at this time of year, I get weird from missing my (grown) kids. It’s good to think of others and other things. Thank you.
    Have a beautiful Thanksgiving, friend.

  30. Oh Honey. I was reading this on the edge of my seat, a pit in my stomach, dreading how it would turn out. What an amazing story of some extraordinary men…thank you for sharing it so eloquently.

    p.s. My husband is reading that Black Swan book and I thought it was about ballerinas #wtfserb

  31. Beautiful and extraordinary story, Julie. Thank you for sharing.

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  32. Oh My! I’m speechless. What an amazing story!

    Happy Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family sweets!

  33. Love you, Miss Julie and every story that you share with us. Happy Thanksgiving.

  34. Julie,

    I am thankful for you. And LUCKY to know you. This story was the perfect one to read just now. Lots of tears. GOOD tears.


    Happy Turkey Day!

  35. Life is mostly amazing. I’m so glad I haven’t missed my Black Swan moments.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Julie.

  36. Wonderful repost, loved the ps. Looking for the good is one of the many things I find wonderful about you Julie. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


    Wow, Julie. Such a powerful story. I had goose-bumps reading it & much gratitude that you reposted. xoxo

  38. **The Black Swan (the theory, not the movie).**

    O0000h, My,

    Your Dentist talks about some deep Sh#% ! Love it.

    ~~~~~Happy Thanksgiving. Enlightening, Post, Julie. X

  39. Such a story that before I commented I closed my eyes, took a deep inhale, and said thank you. I’m glad you posted this again for us to read – it certainly deserved the attention!

  40. Well even though I wasn’t one of the 3, Happy Turkey day anyway.

  41. ain't for city galS

    It takes a village…in family, in life, in everything!

  42. wow wow wow wow wow wooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwww I love stories like this. It fills my heart with joy.

  43. I’m virtually overwhelmed with emotion reading this. I’m a former criminal defense attorney and know first hand how unbelievably hard it is for someone to “break the cycle” in their lives sometimes. I am ever so grateful that Jason was so willing to help Antonio break his. Thanks for sharing this story today, Julie.

  44. Such a beautiful post. It was exactly what I needed to read today. Thanks!

  45. Di

    I was one of the three and now I am one of many who read and enjoy your writing. Happy Thanksgiving, albeit a bit late, my dear friend. XXXOOO

  46. This is beautiful You made me bawl. I am glad I found this blog. You always make me glad I came by.

  47. Oh and my gynecologist likes to talk about collecting cookie jars while giving a pap. It doesn’t affect my speaking though, if he is doing it right.

  48. That is a truly amazing story. Luck doesn’t begin to cover it. I hope Antonio is living the life he deserves.

  49. So amazing. I read it this weekend and keep thinking about it. Thanks for sharing it…perfect timing, too, old friend.

  50. Wow. I absolutely LOVED this post. That is amazing!! I can’t believe he was able to catch that precious child in time. I don’t think any of the things that happened in their lives were by accident. What an awesome story. I’m so glad you re-posted it!

  51. I needed something uplifting today. As always, you came through. Thanks friend.

  52. How do you do it??? You make me laugh and cry and feel inspired! Thank you!!

  53. God truly had His hand in saving a very special boy and opened the door for a troubled young man to start a new life. What wonderful things to be thankful for!

  54. What a story! Wow. And, at first I was just thinking, huh, a philosophical dentist!

  55. Holy crap. I smacked my hand over my mouth in disbelief. Good story telling; good story.

  56. What a beautiful story…and testament to the power of human beings to CHANGE and be changed.

  57. This was a great read. Honestly, keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *