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Speaker urges students to make good choices

Greybull Standard of Greybull, Wyoming

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Todd Becker was 18 and a senior in high school, with a lifetime in front of him, when a bad decision cost him his life on a Nebraska highway in 2005.

While the story most likely went unnoticed outside of Nebraska when it happened, Todd's older brother Keith has made it his personal mission to share it with as many kids as he can, in the hopes that by doing so, he can help them avoid the mistakes that his brother made.

His journey brought him to Greybull, where on Wednesday afternoon he spoke to an assembly of students from the three south Big Horn County high schools (Greybull, Riverside and Burlington) during their annual observance of Red Ribbon Week.

Todd was an athlete at Kearney High, where he played football, basketball and track.

One Sunday morning in 2005, Todd was at work, stocking shelves in one of the local grocery stores, when a man who had just been to church approached him. Inspired by what he had just heard from his minister, the man wanted to ask Todd some questions. Todd answered them.

Until the man came to the big one: "Todd, do you know where you will go when you die?"

Todd, feeling 18 and bulletproof, told the man he thought he was "too young to die."

Later that night, Todd's life ended. He had been at a party, drinking with friends, when he climbed into the back seat of a vehicle driven by a boy who, himself, had no business being behind the wheel. Three boys left the party in that car. Only two lived to tell about it.

Keith said he dealt with all kinds of different emotions, blaming the establishment that sold him the alcohol to the driver of the car, before he ultimately recognized that it was his brother's choices that put him in the back seat of that car.

There were warning signs that had been missed.

One month earlier, Todd had gotten a DUI.

Afterward, his track coach warned him in no uncertain terms, saying that if he heard even a rumor that Todd had been at a party, he would be kicked off the team, something that would have crushed Todd. So with the season approaching, Todd and his friends had an idea. They'd have "one last weekend of partying," then give it up, focus on track and abide by the training rules for the season.

The date was Feb. 6, 2005.

"Our choices will catch up to us," Keith told the students. "My brother was the only one buckled up, he was the only one in the back seat and he was the only one killed. There will come a day when we have to give an accounting of all of our choices."

Todd had begun high school on the "narrow road" described in the Gospel of Matthew, but took his first tiny step off of it as a freshman in high school when he gave into the temptation of pornography.

His sophomore year, he got drunk for the first time.

Later in high school, he pressured his longtime girlfriend into having sex with him.

"By his senior year, he was trying everything," said Keith. By then, he'd dumped his girlfriend, was sleeping around with other girls and generally living on the edge, heavy into alcohol.

"What I want you all to understand," said Keith, "is that every journey begins with a single step. For my brother, it was porn that initially turned him down the path of destruction.

"My brother made choices, and those were the choices that eventually cost him his life."

It turns out that Keith, himself, played a role.

"I led him astray," he admitted. "Every step he took, he took because he followed in his older brother's footsteps. My choices influenced his."

It was during his brother's viewing, just before his funeral, that Keith confronted those unsettling truths.

He's been trying to make up for it ever since, including Wednesday at Greybull's Buff Gym.

His was a message of forgiveness and of the importance of getting back on the narrow road, no matter how far off that road one has drifted. "If you don't, there may come a day when it's too late to change," he said. "What will you live for?"

He invited students who were willing to make a commitment to that "narrow road" and good choices to come forward — dozens did — and to return later in the evening for the "community" presentation which was going to have more of a spiritual emphasis.

Being in a public school, the afternoon assembly had more of a secular tone and only those students whose parents had signed off on them hearing it were allowed to attend.

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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