Tuesday, October 27, 2015

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ” ― Fred Rogers

While I celebrated when Lewis Hamilton won his third World Driver’s Championship in Formula One racing on Sunday in Austin, Texas, it reminded me of his father who worked there jobs when Lewis was young so that the young man could follow his dream.  We honor and celebrate our heroes from baseball, football, entertainment (how many Oscars has Meryl Streep won?), and other sports, as well as those who have done well in business.  We also honor those who have given their lives to the service of others, like Mother Teresa, those who have helped shaped nations like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi.  We celebrate the explorers, the pioneers, and those whose work has saved the lives of so many others like Dr. Jonas Salk or Marie Curie.  These have all become the heroes of many and the inspiration for their lives.  I have a little different take on things.  My heroes are people whose names no one knows.  They are the single mothers and fathers who devote their lives and work multiple jobs to improve the lives of their children.  The unpaid or poorly paid teachers who work hundreds of hours a week tutoring, mentoring, and trying to help those students who don’t seem to get it from regular teaching.  My heroes include the man who spent his life bagging groceries, but, in his spare time, delivered prescriptions to shut-ins and ferried the elderly to church every Sunday.  Every community, even yours, has people who do things for others without any thought for themselves.  They do without so that others can have basic necessities.  These are the living saints that will never be recognized by the church for living the lives that truly become the Gospel.  The volunteers who serve food to the hungry, who man the food pantries, who go into the poorest neighborhoods to bring clothes, food, or just a listening ear to the poor, homeless, and depressed.  I have known many of these. Volunteers who take weeks of training so that they can be the unpaid voice for hours on the suicide hot-line or who listen to those in horrible distress who call the rape crisis lines.  Missionaries sometimes get singled out for praise for moving to foreign lands where all is not safe or familiar, but there are those living right next door to you who do as much or more for the marginalized people in your own community.  Women can sometimes name the few women who were at the forefront of the movement that brought them the ability to vote but cannot name the thousands of woman who suffered much more than the leaders did, but without whom the movement could not have succeeded. This is true of every great movement of societal change be it the end of apartheid, slavery, or giving the right to vote to those denied it for so very long.  We know the names of the leaders, but without the thousands or millions of followers, there would have been no leaders whose names we all know.  It is not the pastors with familiar names, or the recognized saints that have carried the peace and blessings of Christ to the millions who now know Him.  It is the unnamed woman who walks with the aid of a stick who brings food to the hungry—she’s the image of Christ.  It is the elderly man dying of cancer who refuses to stay home on Sunday morning, but insists of being in the back of the church, unheard and unseen but full of the Holy Spirit.  Those who live as Christ called us to live are almost never lauded, celebrated, or given plaques rewarding their achievements, but they are the reason that Christianity is the largest religion in the world.  I smiled today when I read a Facebook post of a man I know who was celebrating his last chemo treatment.  I smiled when I got a notice on my Facebook timeline by a neighbor I have not seen in thirty years, but who took the time to let me know he was proud that I was still in the "Good News" business.  It is not the names of heroes everyone knows who change the world.  It is the unsung, unheralded givers of themselves as they follow the teachings of Christ about love, forgiveness, and caring for the widows and orphans.  You know such people because they are all around you.  Seek one out and let them know you appreciate what they do.  My sister, a retired teacher who spent years taking care of my ailing parents and with health problems of her own, still tutors and mentors troubled children—giving them a lift, a shot at a life they might not otherwise ever know.  She’s a hero in my book, even if you might never know her name.  Thank God for those whose joy comes not from fame and glory but from simple service to those in need.  God bless every one of them—and you.
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