In today's column, I wrote about Foday Gibateh, the Boys' Latin Charter School senior paralyzed in a car accident in February. Showing remarkable resilience, Foday was able to complete his requirements so he could graduate with his classmates on time. He continues intensive rehab at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital so he can attend Penn State Berks in the fall.
On Tuesday, Magee threw Foday a graduation party. Joe Davis, a Magee social worker, along with dozens of other staffers, attended. But unlike the others, Davis could relate to Foday's disability on a deeply personal level.
That's because Davis is paralyzed, too -- shot in the back when he was 25 by a 14-year-old seeking revenge. See, Davis "was a drug dealer, a liar and a thief for most of my life.....I still sold a lot of drugs after I got shot."
But years later, after a suicide attempt, Davis decided life was worth living. He went back to school and earned a master's at Penn. So when he wheeled himself over to Foday's bed, his words were more for advice than congratulations.
"Life doesn't stop," he said. "Nobody gives you nothing because you're paralyzed. You got to go get it yourself."
Davis spends a lot of time speaking at schools, churches and rec centers on behalf of Think First, a national accident prevention program that he has turned into his personal violence prevention program.
"Everybody's not gonna make it -- I know that," Davis says of the kids lost to the streets. "I was OK with dying at 19 or 20, and we have kids out there with the very same mind set...We've gotta stop those who don't want anything and grab hold of the ones who do."