We’ve read a lot lately about heroes: the kind spawned by a national emergency, the ones who survived and the ones who did not. These have been real, everyday people who, when they were called on, became the best the evolutionary chart has yielded – standing straight and tall.
Heroes often are a reaction to villains, of course, and there are certainly enough of those in the world. Just as we can’t really know what goes on inside the mind of a hero, we find it even more difficult to understand why a person would deprive others of the only life they get on Earth.
We all have our heroes, those we know personally and those we worship from afar.
Heroism reminds me of a recent Sunday school class in which our teacher asked us to name someone in our lives who was wise. So many members described their parents that I never got a chance to mention my own heroes.
My father was uneducated in books but held a doctorate in farming. He knew more about how the seasons, the sun and the weather control our lives than I can ever hope to understand. He nurtured plants to their fullest, treated sick animals, mastered machinery and electricity, and calculated the mathematics of acreage, lumber and crop yields better than a professor.
Likewise, my mother balanced all the best attributes of healer, teacher and disciplinarian, all the while dedicating her strong back in the fields, assisting my father when there was too much work to go around.
Because of my parents, I am puzzled every time I read about a mother who neglects or abuses her children, or a father who abandons or ignores his family. People like that don’t even fall into the category of “parents,” much less “heroes.” I count my blessings for not having been in such a family.
I had a lot of other heroes as a child, people such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Bannister, Mark Twain, Albert Schweitzer and Thomas Edison. Because of the time I grew up, movie stars such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were on my list, too.
I recently read a new biography of Autry, a singing cowboy in the movies from the 1930s to 1950s, and then on television.
His films took place in the new Old West, where telephones, cars and planes rubbed elbows with Stetsons, horses and six-guns.
In the book, I found out that in addition to being an actor, songwriter, singer and successful businessman (he owned a Major League Baseball team), Gene had his weaknesses, particularly alcohol and women. I’m glad I didn’t know that as a child. Today, I know that all heroes are flawed.
My parents were certainly flawed. They didn’t set off being wise. They learned so much because they had to, the hard way. They knew nothing about raising children at first, but they stuck with the job at hand. Given the trouble we all gave them, it’s a miracle they endured. Their character was made, not born.
Those are the best kind of people to idolize, I think. Such heroes are generated every day, so there’s no danger we’ll run out of them. I hope you have had a few heroes in your life.