Farmville Enterprise column January 11, 2017
Every now and then an individual comes along who makes a wonderful and lasting impact on an inordinate number of people. Such a person was Jeff Wooten. For over thirty years Jeff was any combination of a high school instructional assistant, coach, driver’s education teacher, church youth group advisor, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes volunteer. On New Year’s Eve family and friends flooded the Millbrook High gymnasium in Raleigh to celebrate the life of “Coach Woo.” At the age of 55 he likely died from a massive heart attack. Speaker after speaker recounted stories of youth mission trips to Mexico and Jamaica, sporting events, Fun in the Son camps at Jekyll Island, his ability to be there for students and to listen without judgment, his love for music (mostly country and Christian), his typical youth group or camp song request of “Pass it On,” and the hugs – always the Woo hugs.
Kelsey Walters Douglas wrote on Facebook, “I honestly have not known what to say. My heart breaks each time I try… many of you know I am still here today only because of Woo. Hundreds of us talk about who he was to us. HUNDREDS. Do you know what the common factor is in every single post? LOVE. He loved us and he loved us big. He loved each and every one of us to where when you were with him YOU were important. Big. Fat. Bear. Hug. His. Laugh. Important. YOU were important because you were. You WERE!!! We were his family and he loved us and we mattered. He loved big and he loved hard and he loved all of us the same. There won’t be another Jeff Wooten. We are all loving you big and we are all better for knowing you.”
Jeff created a blogspot in 2007 called “Words from Woo!,” which were “thoughts on living a Christ-inspired life and leading students to do the same.” On February 2, 2010 he wrote “My favorite youth group song when I was a teen was called ‘Pass It On,’ a simple song about sharing God’s love. One particular verse always got me a little teary eyed whenever we sang it- ‘I wish for you my friend this happiness that I’ve found; you can depend on Him. It matters not where you’re bound.’” “Think of that, live that, share that happiness that you’ve found. There is no greater joy that I have found, no happier moment, than when something I have said or done leads a young person to the happiness that I have found in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
Whatever our sphere of influence, be it big or small, we will shine the light of Christ in the world by truly loving each other- not with words but with actions. Jesus put it so simply, as recorded in John 13:34-35. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”