Thursday, February 5, 2015
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t know how you define the word “hero” but Hemingway called it someone with “grace under pressure.” I guess I think it is anyone who does things for others without thinking of themselves first, even if it involves pain or high cost. Many years ago a jet crashed into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. in freezing temperatures. A bystander dove into the freezing water and saved many people he didn’t know and risked his life in the process. Why? I have a friend who is a police officer and was once chasing a drug dealer across a rooftop in a large city. He caught the criminal as he was leaping off of the roof and held him, hanging by his heels eight stories up. The officer could feel himself slipping and could have easily saved himself by letting the drug dealer drop to his death, but the officer continued to hold on to him until other police arrived and pulled them both to safety. Asked why he didn’t just let the man go, the officer said, “I could never have lived with myself if I let him die to save myself.” That’s a hero. The man who dove into the freezing water to save strangers—he’s a hero, too. But a man or woman who devotes his or her life to teaching, nursing, social work, or volunteering to help the less fortunate—those are heroes, too. My wife is a hero to me. The man who used to run the school who used our buildings and whose children we fed and clothed, walked around the neighborhood saying horrible things about my wife. He said her school was bad and the children learned nothing. Of course, he was opening a competing school and took all of the teachers with him when he left. The Bishops of the Methodist Church in Tanzania removed him as a pastor and member and threatened him with arrest if he didn’t quit saying bad things and interfering with what was now Karen’s school. Karen was very hurt and upset by what was being said about her. Two weeks ago, she had control over the new school but no students, no teachers, and no parents coming to the two meetings she had scheduled—because of this man’s actions. However, yesterday, she was out singing and playing her guitar with the twenty-five students who had come, helped the two new certified teachers and an aide learn how to use the iPads, and watched as the children drank their porridge and ate their rice and beans. Karen has rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart problems, and is in pain twenty-four hours a day, but she promised God if He gave her a school with teachers, cooperating parents, and students (most orphans), she would go out every day and sing with the kids and work with the teachers. She has been doing just that. I didn’t see her in the house yesterday morning, but I heard the singing, smiled, and knew I was living with a hero. Being a hero is just doing what God has called you to do and ignoring the cost in physical pain, discomfort, and financial burden. My wife is my hero and I couldn’t love her more today than I did almost fifty years ago when we married. She is one strong lady and favored by God.