Monday, January 23, 2017

“People who go to work every day, make sacrifices to raise families, and get through life without hurting other people if they can help it—those are the real heroes.” ― Dean Koontz

A hero is someone who “we” determine to have demonstrated behaviors and decisions that are ethically and emotionally worthy of our awe. We see in them something we think is not in us. Given similar conditions, we “think” we might not make the same moves and decisions they do, so we place them in an elevated place in society or in our minds. What is a hero? Someone who inspires us by their example. Someone who moves us emotionally to connect with them at some level in order for us develop a connection with them. We may want to idolize them or place them in high personal regard. We may want to connect with them in a personal way by focusing on them to garner their strength or will-power.  Edward Abbey writes that, “Yes, there are plenty of heroes and heroines everywhere you look. They are not famous people. They are generally obscure and modest people doing useful work, keeping their families together and taking an active part in the health of their communities, opposing what is evil (in one way or another) and defending what is good. Heroes do not want power over others.”  By the above definitions, there are many heroes in my life starting with my father.  I didn’t realize how much of a hero he was to me until he was near death at the age of 89, but thankfully I had time with him at the end of his life and discovered that almost every character trait I liked in myself had come from my father.  He was generous, kind, loving, and treated everyone with respect.  Just one example is that when he learned he was being transferred to Corpus Christi, Texas, where a big percentage of his work force would be Hispanic, he immediately began learning to speak Spanish.  He wanted to be able to speak with all his employees including the janitors and dock workers.  He also paid for college tuition for more than one of those Hispanic workers while he was in Corpus.  I’m carrying on that aspect of his life.  I had a professor once who knew that grad students were traditionally poor, and he would sneak one or two hundred dollar bills into our pockets or book and never expect repayment.  He’s a hero, too.  A missionary I know was stricken with breast cancer, traveled back to her home country for surgery and treatment and then returned to her mission field.  She’s a hero.  I have another missionary friend raising five children in an East African country with spirit and dedication.  Those children are blessed, and their mother’s another of my heroes.  My wife, teaching and running schools, designing and making uniforms for orphans in spite of her arthritis pain that sometimes keeps her from walking (she’s the one who wanted to move to Africa), she’s a hero of mine as well.  I know of a couple in Arkansas who do without air conditioning in their home so they can give more to Hispanic ministries—they’re heroes, too.  I know a Muslim man who cares so much for a Christian friend that he will sleep on the concrete floor of the man’s hospital room every night the man has to remain in the hospital, that qualifies as hero behavior in my book.  Then there are the women all around us who will walk five to ten kilometers every day just to provide water for their families.  They are strong, hard workers who will sacrifice everything to provide for their children.  Pretty sure that meets the requirements in the definitions above.  My sister quit her good job in Houston to move to a rural Arkansas small town and teach middle-school math for fifteen years so she could take care of our ailing and aging parents.  She’s on my hero list, too (she’s back with her friends and family in the Houston area now, God bless her).  Everywhere you look, you can find heroes that are unsung, unappreciated, unacknowledged, and yet, inspire others to become better people—every single day.  These folks are not rich, or celebrated, or in the news, but they are the very people who make life worth living.  When I hear the expression “salt of the earth” I think of these people.  You know some, I’m sure.  Wouldn’t it be a kick to send “You’re one of my heroes” cards or emails to these people?  Wouldn’t cost you much, but it would make you feel pretty good, I’m guessing.  Probably surprise some folks who would never consider themselves heroes, but you know better.  Make a difference in someone’s life today—tell them if they’re a hero for you.  My father died before I could tell him what a difference he made in my life, and I miss him and wish he could have known me as a missionary in Africa because it changed who I am.  I think he’d be proud.

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