Once in a great while, maybe even just once in a lifetime, a person comes along who totally changes your perspective, teaches you what matters, and gives you an example of what loving your fellow man is supposed to look like.

Avery Anderson was that person.

On the surface, Avery’s life seemed pretty ordinary: a small town girl with a sharp sense of humor who loved soccer, Bible journaling, helping with the children’s ministry at her church, and a pretty color of teal green.

But anyone who was acquainted with Avery knew she was far from ordinary. She affected her family, her school, her town, her state. She was known around the world.

She was the most pure embodiment of love for her fellow man that I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. No one who ever met Avery or heard her story walked away unchanged.

She made us better.

The day after the tragic accident that left Avery with a traumatic brain injury five years ago, the town of Ada, Oklahoma, began to mobilize. People started praying: some of them had never uttered a prayer in their lives. 

Someone donated money to a local convenience store to pay for customer’s drinks because they wanted to do something, anything to honor her. Pancake suppers to raise money were planned. Dodgeball tournaments, road races, fundraising dinners- there was no end to the events people were willing to support for Avery. Signs all across town that advertised daily specials now had one short, urgent message: Pray for Avery.

Then came the teal bracelets. Printed with one of her favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 6:8, with the hashtag #AvetheBrave, the bracelets were worn by people of all ages, races, and gender. People from all walks of life wanted to support her. 

A local boutique owner wanted to support Avery, approached her family with the idea, and soon these bracelets were spotted all over the United States as well as overseas. It was just one of many miracles generated by Avery’s love of people.

I have never seen Ada, Oklahoma, as united in a cause as it has been for Avery Anderson, and through her, the Anderson family. No one cared about her political leanings, what kind of grades she made in school, how wealthy or poor she was. 

People know the real thing when they see it or hear about it, and they couldn’t get enough Avery stories about how, even while she slept, her life continued to impact others exponentially.

My favorite images of Avery are of her interactions with children. Avery had a special place in her heart for the children of Haiti. Love simply oozed from her being when she was around them, and I never tire of looking at photos of her in her element.

Avery loved people, loved Jesus, and loved life. We will never know how many lives this precious girl touched, but she didn’t do it with money, with power, or with fame. She did it with love. That’s it.

The best way we can honor this beautiful girl’s life is by loving one another.

Let’s choose to put differences aside, treat each other with love and respect, and find joy in what matters, because if Avery’s life taught us anything, it is that tomorrow isn’t promised, and also that anyone can leave an indelible imprint on the world around them.

May her legacy live forever.

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