Author reaches out to celebrity, receives surprise

Published 7:47 am Saturday, March 14, 2015

After seeing Tim Tebow’s new segment, “Motivate Me Monday” on Good Morning America, local author Rhett Barbaree said he thought the format of the program would be a great fit for his book and unique story regarding BonnieKate Zoghbi, a young lady who was injured during the Colorado theater shootings in 2012.

Three months prior to that tragic event, Barbaree met the young lady when working on his inspirational novel, “Thank God for Boll Weevils.” With the book based on true events that happened across the South in the early 1900’s, the author was using both real and fictional characters to tell his story when he met Zoghbi.

“Her Southern name grabbed my attention immediately, and I told her I was going to use it as a character in my book,” Barbaree said.

True to his word and staying in touch with her via Facebook, the author was shocked when he soon found out his new friend had been shot in the knee by James Holmes during the midnight premier of “Batman Returns” in Aurora, Colo.

Holmes, who was the lone gunman, is standing trial for the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 58 others.

Then, several months later, and while reading articles about Zoghbi’s recovery in the Denver Post and USA Today, the author was moved to tears when he realized how providential their meeting actually was.

“In each interview, she was not only saying how she had forgiven what Holmes had done to her but was expressing how she knew God would take the tragedy she experienced that night and turn it into something good,” Barbaree said. “She was actually expressing the two major themes God had inspired me to write throughout my book, which are the importance of forgiveness and how God takes our adversities and turns them into blessings.”

Sensing what a good fit the story would be for the “Motivate Me Monday” segment, and feeling they would be open for submissions, Barbaree sent a signed copy of his book and a newspaper story about Zoghbi to Tebow and his producers in New York.

About two months later, after hearing nothing back from the show, Barbaree finally realized why his phone had never rang.

“I was on the Amazon page my publisher had set up for my book when I noticed several used copies for sale,” Barbaree said. “One of the vendors offering my book stated their copy was ‘Like New.’ Knowing I could always use the copy later and being curious as to whether the purchase would affect my book’s rankings, I ordered it.”

Barbaree said when it arrived a few days later, he was stunned when he realized the copy he received was the one he had sent to Tebow at the “Good Morning America” address in New York.

“After a moment or two, I could do nothing but laugh,” the author said. “My book had come full circle. I mailed it from Alabama to the Big Apple, and someone I guess at the ABC studios there saw a good way to make a buck. I’m pretty sure it never made it to Tim Tebow’s desk, which is a shame. With his Christian faith and being from the South, I know he would have loved the characters and symbolism in it.”

Though his efforts failed to get his story on national TV this time, the author said he refuses to give up.

“The people who have read my book won’t let me,” he said. “There’s too many life lessons in the story, and then also there’s the irony of meeting BonnieKate when I did. That young lady has become a living example of what God was conveying to me all along.

“She lifted up something terrible that happened to her and in faith said, ‘Here God, I give it to you. Now turn it into a blessing!’”